Journal of Tropical Ecology

Site occupancy and density of sympatric Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) and nose-horned viper (Bitis nasicornis)

Luca Luiselli a1c1
a1 Centre of Environmental Studies Demetra and F.I.Z.V. (Ecology), Via Olona 7, I-00198 Rome, Italy.

Article author query
luiselli l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The presence and density of two sympatric, large-sized vipers (the Gaboon viper, Bitis gabonica and the nose-horned viper, Bitis nasicornis) were studied along several transects, during both dry and wet seasons, and at different times of day, in southern Nigeria (West Africa). Three habitat types were found along the various transects (mature rain forest (MF), secondary rain forest (SF), swamp forest (SW)). The detection probabilities for these vipers were modelled with a set of competing models, and the various models were ordered by Akaike Information Criterion procedures. Two classes of models were used: the single-season model, and the multi-species model. The best models (single-season model) suggested that: for the Gaboon viper, habitat types SF and SW were particularly important in detecting this species, especially during the rainy season at 08h00–16h00. For nose-horned vipers, the best models had SW and MF as site-covariates. Application of the multi-species model revealed that there were different detection functions if both species are present at a site, with a ‘negative’ interaction of occupancy between the species. Females and males were similarly detectable in a logistic regression model, but feeding status and pregnancy slightly increased detection probability in a logistic regression model. Viper density was modelled by a DISTANCE sampling procedure. The density of one species tended to be inversely correlated to the density of the other, suggesting that (1) the rain-forest environment does not support abundant populations of both vipers when sympatric, and (2) the two Bitis species subtly partition the habitat resources.

(Published Online July 27 2006)
(Accepted March 30 2006)

Key Words: Africa; Akaike Information Criterion; Bitis gabonica; Bitis nasicornis; detection probability; ecology; snake; spatial density; site occupancy.

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