Dumpsters and other anthropogenic structures as habitat for invasive African rock agama lizards in Florida

Timothy S. Mitchell, Brian Folt, Joshua M. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Invasive species often use habitat differently than native species and can benefit by occupying underutilized habitats during the invasion process. The Peter’s Rock Agama (Agama picticauda)—native to savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa—is successfully invading urban habitats in Florida, USA. During a field trip in urban southern Florida, we observed apparently high A. picticauda abundance around dumpsters used for human refuse, potentially because dumpsters provide refuge, thermoregulatory opportunities, abundant arthropod prey, and harbor few competitors. In this study, we surveyed abundance and built resource selection functions to better understand habitat use of A. picticauda in urban southern Florida. We tested whether hypothesized habitat features predictably influenced the abundance and occupancy of A. picticauda among sites and whether individuals used specific habitat features within sites. Across sites, we found A. picticauda abundance was positively correlated with the number of dumpsters, and, within sites, dumpsters were preferentially selected as habitat. Similarly, we also found two other anthropogenic structures, building crevices and electrical units, were positively selected habitats at population and individual scales. We hypothesize that dumpsters, crevices, and electrical units are selected resources because they are underutilized habitats by other species and they provide refuge, beneficial thermoregulatory opportunities, and in the case of dumpsters, foraging opportunities. Our study provides the first quantitative assessment of urban habitat use by non-native A. picticauda, and supports the importance of human structures as habitat. Our results suggest the intriguing possibility that the A. picticauda invasion in Florida may be exploiting a vacant niche in urban habitats during the invasion process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2689-2693
Number of pages5
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 25 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
NSF DBI-1402202 to Timothy Mitchell. Joshua M. Hall acknowledges financial support from the Alabama Graduate Research Scholars Program (GRSP) funded through the Alabama Commission for Higher Education and administered by the Alabama EPSCoR.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Garbage
  • Habitat use
  • Lizard
  • Refuges
  • Resource selection
  • Vacant niche


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