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Life histories, demographies and population dynamics of three sympatric chameleon species (Furcifer spp.) from western Madagascar

In: Amphibia-Reptilia
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  • 1 Abteilung Soziobiologie/Anthropologie, Institut für Zoologie und Anthropologie, Universität Göttingen, Kellnerweg 6, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
  • | 2 Abteilung Verhaltensökologie & Soziobiologie, Deutsches Primatenzentrum – Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung, Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
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Abstract

The life histories and population dynamics of chameleons remain poorly known, most likely due to practical challenges related to their cryptic nature. However, several studies have indicated that some of these reptiles have unusually brief life histories. Specifically, one Madagascan chameleon (Furcifer labordi) was found to have an annual life cycle characterized by population-wide survival of the austral winter in the egg stage; a unique life history among tetrapods. In this study, we compare the life history of F. labordi with two locally sympatric congeners (F. cf. nicosiai and F. oustaleti) in Kirindy forest, western Madagascar, to determine how these species adjust their life histories to a highly seasonal and unpredictable climate. We found differences in lifespan, timing of hatching, growth rates, survival, reproductive rates, adult body size, and roosting heights among all three species. Moreover, two species exhibited relatively short lifespans: 6-9 months in F. labordi and 16-18 months in F. cf. nicosiai. In contrast, F. oustaleti is perennial and large-sized juveniles and adults aestivate during the dry season, but survival rates of adults seemed relatively low. Strikingly, the annual cohort of F. labordi was already adult when hatchlings of F. oustaleti and subsequently F. cf. nicosiai emerged. Our study suggests the co-existence of three different life histories with seasonal adjustment that might be related to the partitioning of overall food availability and contributes valuable life history data on enigmatic chameleon species.

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