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A Comparison of Reptile Communities in Relation to Soil Fertility in the Mediterranean and Adjacent Arid Parts of Australia and Southern Africa

A. V. Milewski
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 8, No. 6 (Nov., 1981), pp. 493-503
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2844567
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2844567
Page Count: 11
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A Comparison of Reptile Communities in Relation to Soil Fertility in the Mediterranean and Adjacent Arid Parts of Australia and Southern Africa
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Abstract

A detailed comparison is made of the reptile communities under apparently similar environmental conditions in Australia and southern Africa. The Barrens on the south coast of Western Australia and the Caledon coast in South Africa have not only very similar climates but also very similar soils which are chemically infertile. Communities consisting of ecologically similar reptiles occur in these areas although drawn from different faunas. Elsewhere under a mediterranean and adjacent arid climate, more types of lizards coexist in Australia than coexist in southern Africa or on other continents. However, it is now realized that most parts of Australia have soils which are unusually infertile owing mainly to the continent's geological characteristics. The sparse and unreliable production of food on such soils is suitable for ectotherms such as lizards and their invertebrate prey. Certain additional types of lizards occur owing to the presence, even in dry areas, of year-round plant cover on such soils. Infertility reduces predation on lizards and their prey by mammals and birds, endotherms poorly adapted to unreliable sources of food. It is suggested that various types of lizards, occupying different niches, occur in Australia because of the unique infertility of the soils, rather than the phylogenetic peculiarity of the Australian fauna.

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