Term of Award

Fall 2007

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Lance D. McBrayer

Committee Member 1

David C. Rostal

Committee Member 2

Lorne M. Wolfe

Abstract

Author's abstract: Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are known to have large numbers of invertebrate and vertebrate species associated with their burrows. I compared herpetofaunal species diversity and richness at Gopher Tortoise burrows and random points not near burrows on a sandhill in Southeast Georgia. I also compared habitat structure between burrows and random arrays. Trapping took place from March 1, 2007 to August 30, 2007. Species richness for all months combined was significantly higher at Gopher Tortoise burrows than random arrays (Random = 3.60 ± 0.43, Burrow = 5.20 ± 0.57). Species diversity was not significantly different between burrow and random arrays; however, there was a trend showing higher diversity at burrows (Random = 0.67 ± 0.08, Burrow = 0.78 ± 0.06). Species diversity and richness were analyzed separately for each month. Species diversity and richness did not differ between months (March August) or between arrays. Percent canopy cover and plant species richness were significantly lower at Gopher Tortoise burrows, and there was a trend towards more ground cover at burrows as well. The results of this study show that species may take refuge in the burrow of the Gopher Tortoise, especially when temperatures are relatively low. This study has provided some evidence to support the status of the Gopher Tortoise as a keystone species in sandhill habitats.

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