Compared with other desert habitats, desert dunes are relatively rich in species, some of which are unique to such habitats. To better understand the interspecific interactions among species in the dunes, their ecology, and their behavior, we studied the habitat use of Stenodactylus petrii. This species is common in desert dunes in Israel and North Africa, and it is a mesopredator, interacting with both its predators and prey, thus affecting populations of both higher and lower trophic levels. We performed an experiment to see whether these animals spend more time in vegetated or open habitats. Our experiment demonstrated that S. petrii individuals moved twice faster out of open dune areas than out of microhabitats simulating desert vegetation. Yet, observations of the gecko's tracks suggest that it is similarly present in open areas and around bushes, necessitating further studies. We also reveal that this nocturnal species is more active earlier in the night than later, and more active in late summer (August) than earlier (June–July). We examined which other co-occurring animals are active together with the studied gecko in time or space. The spatial and temporal activity patterns of S. petrii are negatively correlated with the activity patterns of gerbils, suggesting that their activity time and microhabitat preference differ. The spatial activity pattern of S. petrii is positively correlated with Tenebrionid ground beetles, suggesting a shared microhabitat preference. However, neither the temporal nor the spatial activity of the gecko is correlated with that of vipers, which are its potential predators. Future studies of S. petrii's natural history are important to understand how expected habitat change (e.g. dune stabilization) should affect it.
- Anderson's short-fingered gecko
- Stenodactylus petrii
- habitat selection
- predator–prey interactions
- seasonal activity