Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Hourly and monthly variations in the surface activity patterns of Hemilepistus reaumurii in arid environments of Tunisia


Life in desert ecosystems drives animals to adapt their surface locomotor activity according to environmental conditions. In this study, the hourly and monthly variations in the surface activity patterns of the terrestrial crustacean Hemilepistus reaumurii were investigated. The surface activity of H. reaumurii at the population scale was observed by collecting the hourly active individuals from the sunrise to the sunset of the studied day in each month of 2013 in the Bchachma locality, Tunisia. The collected active individuals were put in perspex boxes (on which we labeled the hourly time interval in which the individuals were collected) in the field and then transported to the laboratory for analysis. Individuals were counted, sexed, and measured in the laboratory. Despite desert conditions in the studied site, H. reaumurii was characterized by a diurnal surface activity, showing a bimodal pattern during the warm months (i.e., May to October). However, it exhibited a unimodal surface activity pattern in the cold months (i.e., February, March, and November). The surface activity was significantly correlated with sunrise and sunset. Moreover, a significant quadratic effect of temperature on the surface activity of H. reaumurii was observed. Furthermore, the study showed that the most important surface activity was recorded in March. The daily exploitation of the temporal niches was significantly different as a function of months. The body size of males was larger than that of females, and the body size of active individuals changed with months. All these behavioural changes in the surface activity represent an adaptive strategy of life in the arid environment.


diurnal activity; variation pattern; aboveground activity; desert isopod; temporal niche; Hemilepistus reaumurii; Tunisia

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