Thermal conditions determine lizards’ response to oil contamination in a desert habitat

Shahar Gofer, Tamar Nassi, Oded Berger-Tal, Amos Bouskila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A unique, hyper-arid habitat in southern Israel was polluted by crude oil in 2014. Surveys following the event found that some species of local lizards avoid the oil, while other species were found more frequently in polluted plots. These results raised the question: why do species react differently to oil-polluted soil? We evaluated how soil type, thermal conditions, and food availability interacted to shape habitat preferences of three lizard species. Generally, thermal conditions determined habitat selection and preferences for contaminated or clean soils, while the effects of food availability were weak. The diurnal Acanthodactylus opheodurus avoided artificial heating sources, perhaps to avoid hot soil during warm hours. Both nocturnal Stenodactylus species showed a preference for higher temperature treatments. While crude oil is considered harmful, ectotherms may not recognize it as a danger and may be attracted to it due to its thermal properties, which may create an ecological trap.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107411
Issue number8
StatePublished - 18 Aug 2023


  • Animals
  • Pollution
  • Wildlife behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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