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Full data for: Predators, prey or temperature? Mechanisms driving niche use of a foundation plant species by specialist lizards

Citation

Bell, Kristian; Doherty, Timothy; Driscoll, Don (2021), Full data for: Predators, prey or temperature? Mechanisms driving niche use of a foundation plant species by specialist lizards, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.g79cnp5nv

Abstract

Foundation species interact strongly with other species to profoundly influence communities, such as by providing food, refuge from predators, or beneficial microclimates. We tested relative support for these mechanisms using spinifex grass (Triodia spp.), which is a foundation species of arid Australia that provides habitat for diverse lizard communities. We first compared the attributes of live and dead spinifex, bare ground and a structurally similar plant (Lomandra effusa), and then tested the relative strength of association of two spinifex specialist lizard species (Ctenophorus spinodomus and Ctenotus atlas) with spinifex using a mesocosm experiment. Temperatures were coolest within spinifex compared to bare ground and Lomandra. Invertebrate abundance and the threat of predation were indistinguishable between treatments, suggesting temperature attenuation may be a more important driver. Overall, the dragon C. spinodomus preferred live over dead spinifex, while the skink C. atlas preferred dead spinifex, particularly at warmer air temperatures. However, both species displayed individual variability in their use of available microhabitats, with some individuals rarely using spinifex. Our results provide an example of temperature attenuation by a foundation species driving niche use by ectothermic animals.