Changes in the Herpetofauna of a Fresh Water River in Southern Nigeria, after 20 Years of Development

Jerry M. Lea, Edoardo Politano, Luca Luiselli


Surveys of the herpetofauna of a fresh water river in Southern Nigeria were conducted in 1982 and 2002. Riparian forest in the area has diminished tenfold between the surveys and the environment nowadays resembles a bushland mosaic. This study therefore provides insight into species succession of an area undergoing major habitat disturbance.

Accumulation curves for both years indicated that most amphibian species were captured but there were probably reptile species remaining undiscovered. In 1982, 11 amphibian and 17 reptile species were caught compared to 17 amphibian and 10 reptile species in 2002. The change in available habitat type is mirrored by the successional change in amphibian and reptilian species composition. Forest specialists (e.g., Ptychadena aequiplicata, Chiromantis rufescens, Acanthixalus spinosus, Hyperolius sylvaticus nigeriensis, Kinixys homeana, and Chamaeleo spp.) are no longer present in 2002, whereas more generalist species or those preferring disturbed habitats now dominate (e.g., Hoplobatrachus occipitalis, Ptychadena mascareniensis, P. bibroni, Phrynobatrachus latifrons, Bufo maculatus, Psammophis phillipsii, Philothamnus heterodermus, Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia, and Naja nigricollis). The greater diversity of amphibian species in 2002 maybe a reflection of an increased diversity of microenvironments in the bushland mosaic compared to the forest. The most successful species (Ranidae, esp. Ptychadena) are those that are able to take advantage of multiple habitat types depending on prevailing environmental conditions.


Succession; conservation; edge effect; spatial heterogeneity; herpetofauna; Nigeria; amphibian declines; habitat destruction/change

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