Skeletochronological analysis of age in three ‘fire-specialist’ lizard species
Smith, Annabel L
Bull, Christopher Michael
Driscoll, Don A
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Adverse fire regimes threaten the persistence of animals in many ecosystems. ‘Fire-specialist’ species, which specialise on a particular post-fire successional stage, are likely to be at greatest risk of decline under adverse fire regimes. Life history data on fire-specialists, including longevity, are needed to develop tools to assist fire management for conservation. We used skeletochronology to estimate the age of individuals of three South Australian fire-specialist lizard species: Amphibolurus norrisi (Agamidae), Ctenotus atlas (Scincidae) and Nephrurus stellatus (Gekkonidae). Bone samples were sourced from specimens captured in mallee vegetation predominantly on the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Transverse sections of femora were prepared using a standard histological procedure. We counted the minimum and maximum number of lines of arrested growth (LAG) in each sample to provide a conservative and non-conservative estimate of age for each individual. Our results showed that A. norrisi may live for at least five and up to seven years, C. atlas for at least three and up to four years and N. stellatus for at least four and up to seven years. The assumptions that one LAG was deposited per year and that endosteal resorption was minimal must be considered before using these estimates in further research. Our results provide a guide to the potential longevity of the three species which can be used in simulation modelling and genetic studies to improve fire management for animal conservation.