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Data from: Dumpsters and other human structures as habitat for invasive African rock agama lizards in Florida


Invasive species often use habitat differently than native species and can benefit by using 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 collection trip in urban southern Florida, we observed high A. picticauda abundance around dumpsters used for human refuse, potentially because dumpsters provide refuge, thermoregulatory opportunities, abundant arthropod prey, and have few competitors. In this study, we surveyed A. picticauda abundance and built resource selection functions describing habitat use 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, A. picticauda abundance was positively correlated with the number of dumpsters, and, within sites, dumpsters appear to be preferred habitat. Other structures that influenced population- and individual-level habitat selection included crevices in human-made substrates and electrical units, both of which provide refugia. Our study provides a quantitative assessment of urban habitat use by this non-native species, 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.