Optimal foraging theory predicts flexibility in feeding behaviour which enables species to survive in harsh environments where food resources may be scarce and unpredictable in space and time. In this study we explored the hypothesis that the lizard , a species living in dry desert areas may behave as an omnivore under conditions of limited food availability. To do so, we examined the diet of this species based on 294 faecal pellets collected in the field. This species has been traditionally considered as a strict herbivore. However, our study based on a population in the Qatar desert provides the first evidence of scavenging behaviour for . We found remains of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects in their faecal pellets. We also found significant differences between our study zones in the type of food consumed by lizards. This highlights the importance of environmental conditions and human activity on lizard behaviour. The consumption of vertebrate carcases was only detected in the study area located near the main road, suggesting that scavengers may benefit from the availability of dead animals along roads that result from collisions with vehicles. The consumption of barley by lizards was observed only in the study area near a camel farm, suggesting that lizards can also benefit from the food provided by farmers to livestock. Our findings of scavenging behaviour have important implications for the application of management actions, such as the provisioning of carcases near the lizard colonies. That may help preserving the species in situations of extreme food scarcity under the threat of global warming. Lizards near farms can also benefit from extra food of human origin. Because the current decrease in, and loss of biodiversity is a real threat, the identification of different tools that may help to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss is crucial.


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  1. A. Castilla, R. Richer, A. Herrel, A.A.T. Conkey, J. Tribuna, M. Al Thani, R. Chan, First evidence of scavenging behavior in the herbivorous lizard, QFARF Proceedings, 2010, EEP26.
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