Thesis

Ecology and distribution of the panamint alligator lizard (Elgaria panamintina)

Panamint alligator lizards (Elgaria panamintina) are a rare lizard species endemic to Inyo County, California. Little is known about the species and it is thought to be of conservation concern. Monitoring efforts for rare species requires conservative marking methods, however most marking methods for herpetofauna are invasive and potentially harmful. I evaluated a non-invasive method of individual identification using photographs of Elgaria head lepidosis in the freeware program Interactive Individual Identification System. Two hundred and thirty nine specimens from four species of alligator lizards were evaluated with a method accuracy of over 99%. In addition to being highly accurate, this marking method was low cost, fast, and efficient. I also reviewed the existing research on E. panamintina and the threats to its survival. Using this information, I developed a Maximum Entropy species distribution model to determine where the species may occur on the landscape. While the model exhibited a high likelihood of statistical overfitting, it successfully predicted the presence of E. panamintina in several previously undocumented locations. Twenty seven hours of field survey efforts yielded only one individual indicating that this species is likely rare and difficult to detect. Further field surveys guided by the species distribution model will likely uncover additional new populations of this species.

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