We sampled the lizard fauna of twenty-two small islets fringing the Pacific island of Guam and used these data to shed light on the processes responsible for present-day diversity. Habitat diversity, measured by islet area and vegetation complexity, was significantly correlated with the number of species found on an islet. However, islet distance and elevation were not significant predictors of diversity. Distribution patterns were slightly different for the two major families in our sample, Scincidae and Gekkonidae: skinks needed larger islets to maintain a population than did geckos. Presence/absence patterns were highly and significantly nested, and population density was correlated with the number of islets on which a species was found. An area cladogram was poorly supported and showed no faunal similarity between nearby islands. These patterns indicate that extinctions on most islets were due mostly to non-catastrophic, long-acting biological causes. The presence on the islets of species extirpated on Guam and the lack of significant nestedness on islands with greater maximum elevation highlight the impact that predators (primarily brown treesnakes) can have. Our findings also show that small reserves will not suffice to protect endangered lizard faunas, and that the islets may serve as a short-term repository of such species until snake-free areas can be established on Guam.
Additional publication details
The lizard fauna of Guam's fringing islets: Island biogeography, phylogenetic history, and conservation implications