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Ecology of the island night lizard, Xantusia riversiana, on Santa Barbara Island, California

January 1, 1991

We studied the population biology and ecology of the island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana) on Santa Barbara Island, California from 1981-1988. We trapped all the major habitats on the island, using pitfall traps and Sherman small mammal traps. In addition to permanently marking individuals by toe-clipping, we used specialized marking techniques on some individuals (fluorescent powder and radioactive tags) to study home range, movement and activity patterns. Island night lizards are exclusively diurnal and exceedingly secretive. Though generally cryptic in coloration, their dorsal coloration is highly variable. They occur most commonly in habitats providing dense vegetative cover (thickets of boxthorn and prickly pear) and in certain types of rock habitat. Night lizards are sedentary and have very small home ranges (x̄=17.2m2). They are slow-growing with some individuals living to at least 12 years old. The most common injuries (tail and scale injuries) apparently result from intraspecific fighting. A wide variety of terrestrial spiders and insects make up the majority of their diet, but they also feed on an unusually large amount of plant material for a small lizard. Because of their diverse diet, low metabolic rate and small, overlapping home ranges, they reach greater densities (>3200 lizards/ha in boxthorn) than previously reported for any other ground-dwelling lizard. Favorable habitat has been reduced because of past farming and grazing, but, given their wide distribution on the island, exceptionally high densities and current protection within a National Park, X. riversiana on Santa Barbara Island are not threatened with extinction, as was previously thought.

Publication Year 1991
Title Ecology of the island night lizard, Xantusia riversiana, on Santa Barbara Island, California
DOI 10.2307/1466975
Authors Gary M. Fellers, Charles A. Drost
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Herpetological Monographs
Index ID 1017416
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center