Abstract

Nile Monitors (Varanus niloticus) are large (up to 2.4 m in length), semiaquatic, carnivorous lizards native to Sub-Saharan Africa. Nile Monitors are reported from southeastern Florida near the Homestead Air Reserve Base in Miami-Dade County, around Southwest Ranches in Broward County, and from a reproducing population along the C-51 canal in Palm Beach County. This study characterizes the diet of Nile Monitors removed from Palm Beach and Broward counties. In 2012, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff and University of Florida researchers began conducting monthly boat surveys along the C-51 canal and driving and walking surveys in Southwest Ranches. We used Nile Monitors removed with firearms or live traps from southeastern Florida from 2012 to 2016. We extracted gastrointestinal (GI) tracts and collected gut contents when present. We rinsed, sorted, dried, examined, and identified gut contents to the lowest taxonomic level possible. We examined 68 GI tracts (30 males, 37 females, 1 of undetermined sex) and identified 1,484 prey items from 65 individuals. We categorized prey items as gastropod, diplopod, malacostracan, arachnid, insect, fish, amphibian, reptile, reptile egg, bird, and mammal. Adult Nile Monitors exhibited the highest dietary diversity and evenness among size classes, and there was no observable difference in diet between males and females. Our observations confirm Nile Monitors are active foragers, and the combination of broad diet and active foraging makes it unlikely that food availability will limit distribution of these invasive lizards in Florida.

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