• Conditional female strategies influence hatching success in a communally nesting iguana

      Moss, Jeanette B.; Gerber, Glenn P.; Laaser, Tanja; Goetz, Matthias; Oyog, TayVanis; Welch, Mark E. (2020)
      The decision of females to nest communally has important consequences for reproductive success. While often associated with reduced energetic expenditure, conspecific aggregations also expose females and offspring to conspecific aggression, exploitation, and infanticide. Intrasexual competition pressures are expected to favor the evolution of conditional strategies, which could be based on simple decision rules (i.e., availability of nesting sites and synchronicity with conspecifics) or on a focal individual's condition or status (i.e., body size). Oviparous reptiles that reproduce seasonally and provide limited to no postnatal care provide ideal systems for disentangling social factors that influence different female reproductive tactics from those present in offspring‐rearing environments. In this study, we investigated whether nesting strategies in a West Indian rock iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis, vary conditionally with reproductive timing or body size, and evaluated consequences for nesting success. Nesting surveys were conducted on Little Cayman, Cayman Islands, British West Indies for four consecutive years. Use of high‐density nesting sites was increasingly favored up to seasonal nesting activity peaks, after which nesting was generally restricted to low‐density nesting areas. Although larger females were not more likely than smaller females to nest in high‐density areas, larger females nested earlier and gained access to priority oviposition sites. Smaller females constructed nests later in the season, apparently foregoing investment in extended nest defense. Late‐season nests were also constructed at shallower depths and exhibited shorter incubation periods. While nest depth and incubation length had significant effects on reproductive outcomes, so did local nest densities. Higher densities were associated with significant declines in hatching success, with up to 20% of egg‐filled nests experiencing later intrusion by a conspecific. Despite these risks, nests in high‐density areas were significantly more successful than elsewhere due to the benefits of greater chamber depths and longer incubation times. These results imply that communal nest sites convey honest signals of habitat quality, but that gaining and defending priority oviposition sites requires competitive ability.
    • Habitat differentiation among three Nigeria–Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) populations

      Abwe, Ekwoge E.; Morgan, Bethan J.; Tchiengue, Barthelemy; Kentatchime, Fabrice; Doudja, Roger; Ketchen, Marcel E.; Teguia, Eric; Ambahe, Ruffin; Venditti, Dana M.; Mitchell, Matthew W.; et al. (2019)
      Ecological niche models (ENMs) are often used to predict species distribution patterns from datasets that describe abiotic and biotic factors at coarse spatial scales. Ground-truthing ENMs provide important information about how these factors relate to species-specific requirements at a scale that is biologically relevant for the species. Chimpanzees are territorial and have a predominantly frugivorous diet. The spatial and temporal variation in fruit availability for different chimpanzee populations is thus crucial, but rarely depicted in ENMs. The genetic and geographic distinction within Nigeria–Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) populations represents a unique opportunity to understand fine scale species-relevant ecological variation in relation to ENMs. In Cameroon, P. t. ellioti is composed of two genetically distinct populations that occupy different niches: rainforests in western Cameroon and forest–woodland–savanna mosaic (ecotone) in central Cameroon. We investigated habitat variation at three representative sites using chimpanzee-relevant environmental variables, including fruit availability, to assess how these variables distinguish these niches from one another. Contrary to the assumption of most ENM studies that intact forest is essential for the survival of chimpanzees, we hypothesized that the ecotone and human-modified habitats in Cameroon have sufficient resources to sustain large chimpanzee populations. Rainfall, and the diversity, density, and size of trees were higher at the rainforest. The ecotone had a higher density of terrestrial herbs and lianas. Fruit availability was higher at Ganga (ecotone) than at Bekob and Njuma. Seasonal variation in fruit availability was highest at Ganga, and periods of fruit scarcity were longer than at the rainforest sites. Introduced and secondary forest species linked with anthropogenic modification were common at Bekob, which reduced seasonality in fruit availability. Our findings highlight the value of incorporating fine scale species-relevant ecological data to create more realistic models, which have implications for local conservation planning efforts.