Ontogenetic habitat shifts have been documented in numerous fish and amphibians and in some reptiles. Intraspecific competition together with differential predation, prey size, social interactions, size-related thermal requirements, and morphological constraints on movement are often implicated in this ontogenetic habitat separation. In the current study, we combined field observation with experiments in seminatural arenas to test various hypotheses regarding the ontogenetic habitat shift that we have documented in the common chameleon. Juveniles (mean, 1 g) occupied low grasses and the adults (mean, 35 g) were found on bushes and trees. Overlap in habitat use between these two age classes was minimal. Our field experiments showed that juveniles actively avoid the presence of adults by concealment or flight. Adults readily attacked and consumed juveniles, regardless of their own mass. These results suggest that the risk of cannibalism towards juveniles is an important selective force behind the ontogenetic habitat shift observed in the common chameleon and may be important in other species too.
- Common chameleon
- Ontogenetic habitat shift