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Butler University

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Australia: Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology


Lizard Island National Park is an area of strong habitat diversity, especially given its small size. There are several distinct habitats represented, including open sclerophyll woodlands, mangrove swamps, dune grasslands, foothills elevations, and of course anthropogenically modified human habitats. The object of this study was to observe the abundances and behaviors of the yellow-spotted monitor lizard (V. panoptes) in each of these habitat settings to answer the question of which habitat type is preferred amongst V. panoptes in the landscape context of Lizard Island National Park.

Study transects were conducted over the course of one month measuring abundance of V. panoptes, size and behavioral trends of detected lizards, and risk assessment displayed by flight initiation distances. After abundance and behavioral data were collected, each habitat represented in the study was assessed using a structural vegetation proforma to see if habitat complexity influences V. panoptes spatial ecology. Results show that abundance was highest at the anthropogenically modified habitat at the Lizard Island Resort and the foothills habitats at Cooks Look Track. This supports previous findings that species of Varanids have adapted to human modified habitats but leaves room for speculation as to why the natural habitat at Cook’s Look is just as abundant despite its seemingly average level of habitat complexity. The limitations of this study restricted my ability to explore the potential explanations experimentally, but prior knowledge that prey availability influences habitat preference in predators drives the conclusion that Cook’s Look offers a habitat rich in available food sources which draws high numbers of large, fearless lizards compared to adjacent areas.


Animal Studies | Biodiversity | Environmental Monitoring | Environmental Studies | Zoology


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