David A. Pike, PhD
Lecturer in Zoology and Tropical Biology
School of Marine and Tropical Biology
James Cook University
Phone: (07) 4781 4660
Visit the Pike Ecology Lab webpage: www.pikelab.com
I am interested in the ecology, behaviour, and evolution of reptiles and frogs. My interests are broad, and I use lizards, snakes, and turtles as model organisms to address ecological questions that relate to conserving or managing declining populations. My current research centres around these main themes: (1) how canopy cover influences habitat quality and reptile distributions, (2) the evolution of maternal care in reptiles, (3) interactions between predators and prey, (4) how climate influences the global distribution of sea turtle nesting beaches, and (5) how habitat influences the prevalence of the amphibian chytrid fungus.
I am currently seeking high quality Honours, Master’s, or PhD students to work on projects based in tropical Australia. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in the work I have been doing. Note that James Cook University does not have any scholarships for Master’s students, and thus you would need to pay tuition. PhD scholarships are highly competitive, and a first-authored publication in a peer-reviewed journal is necessary to be competitive for these awards. I am also interested in taking on postdocs; email me to discuss opportunities for obtaining external funding for these positions.
Sea turtle research
My latest sea turtle work focuses on the impacts of climate change (warming ocean temperatures, increasing cyclones/hurricanes, warming nesting beach temperatures) on nesting populations, including genetic structure. I am using predictive models to examine how the global distribution of turtle nesting may change under climate warming scenarios, and what impact this may have on genetic population structure. Nesting beaches are limited in distribution to tropical, sub-tropical, and (for some species) temperate areas. Climate change could alter the environments such that more areas become suitable for nesting (by areas that are currently too cold for nesting becoming warmer), have no effect at all, or a contraction of current nesting areas (through a complex interaction of temperature and precipitation which results in novel climates at nesting beaches). Each of these outcomes has different implications for conservation, and I am examining both broad-scale and local-scale predictions of future nesting areas under a range of climate scenarios. This work includes all 7 species of marine turtles, and the fine scale is examining how different genetically-distinct populations may respond. Preliminary shows that sea turtle nesting is limited by climate, and that climate change will not result in a dramatic expansion of novel nesting areas.
My recent work showing that coastal development lowers egg survival at developed nesting beaches has received considerable attention in the media:
BBC Radio (The Naked Scientists): Turtles and tourism
Sydney Morning Herald: Beach living threatens turtles
Science Alert Australia and New Zealand: Habitation harms turtle fertility
Daily News and Analysis: Beach lovers turn turtles’ lives upside down
Wild Biology: Turtles like deserted beaches
My PhD dissertation focussed on reptile conservation at the landscape-scale by artificially creating optimal habitat for reptiles in a fire-suppressed landscape. My two main study species were the broad-headed snake Hoplocephalus bungaroides, an endangered elapid endemic to the Sydney region, and the main prey of juvenile snakes, velvet geckos Oedura lesueurii. These two species overwinter underneath rocks on open cliff edges that have very little vegetative cover. This allows them to thermoregulate during winter, and their shelter sites normally stay quite warm because the sun hits the rocks during most of the day. However, following European settlement of Australia, the amount of vegetation (i.e., canopy shading) in many habitats has increased. The most likely causes for this change are the prevention of natural disturbance events, such as wildfires, and the cessation of aboriginal fire-stick farming, which aboriginal peoples used to effectively managed habitat for wildlife and food plants. In more recent times vegetation has encroached upon crucial habitat for the broad-headed snake, which is already restricted in distribution. This has decreased the amount of suitable overwintering habitat, and potentially has contributed to a range-wide decline. My main focus was to determine whether removing shady vegetation will increase vital rates of broad-headed snakes and velvet geckos. Rather than using fire to attempt this restoration (which is often an unsuccessful strategy in severely overgrown habitats), I directly manipulated canopy cover by removing shade trees. In this way I could directly determine whether canopy shading was a causal factor in reptile declines while controlling for other unwanted effects, such as fire. This is a landscape scale experiment and my sampling plots were distributed along a 5km stretch of cliffline. I had equal replicates of canopy removal plots, open canopy controls, and shady controls. This study is the first to examine whether landscape-scale habitat manipulations can improve habitat quality for an endangered reptile.
Google Scholar Citations
If your institution subscribes to the journal you can download pdf's from the link provided. Alternatively, email David to request a reprint.
Fuentes, M.M.B.P., D.A. Pike, A. Dimatteo, and B.P. Wallace. 2013. Resilience of marine turtle regional management units to climate change. Global Change Biology in press (Accepted 9 January 2013).
Huang, W.-S., and D.A. Pike. 2013. Testing cost-benefit models of parental care evolution using lizard populations with facultative expression of maternal care. PLoS One in press.
Huang, W.-S., S.-M. Lin, S. Dubey, and D.A. Pike. 2013. Predation drives interpopulation differences in parental care expression. Journal of Animal Ecology in press.
Pike, D.A. 2013. Climate influences the global distribution of sea turtle nesting. Global Ecology and Biogeography in press. Click here for interactive maps
Dubey, S., D.A. Pike, and R. Shine. 2013. Predicting the impacts of climate change on genetic diversity in an endangered lizard species. Climatic Change in press.
Elzer, A.L., D.A. Pike, J.K. Webb, K. Hammill, R.A. Bradstock, and R. Shine. 2013. Forest-fire regimes affect thermoregulatory opportunities for terrestrial ectotherms. Austral Ecology in press.
Pike, D.A., J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2012. Reply to comment on "Chainsawing for conservation: ecologically informed tree removal for habitat management”. Ecological Management & Restoration 13:e12-13.
Croak, B.M., D.A. Pike, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2012. Habitat selection in a rocky landscape: experimentally decoupling the influence of retreat-site attributes from that of landscape features. PLoS One 7:e37982.
Dubey, S., B.M. Croak, D.A. Pike, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2012. Phylogeography and dispersal in the velvet gecko (Oedura lesueurii), and potential implications for conservation of an endangered snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides). BMC Evolutionary Biology 12:67. Press coverage
Bell, I., and D.A. Pike. 2012. Somatic growth rates of hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata in a northern Great Barrier Reef foraging area. Marine Ecology Progress Series 446:275-283.
Pike, D.A., J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2012. Hot mothers, cool eggs: nest-site selection by egg-guarding spiders accommodates conflicting thermal optima. Functional Ecology 26:469-475.
Pike, D.A., R.M. Andrews, and W.-G. Du. 2012. Eggshell morphology and gekkotan life-history evolution. Evolutionary Ecology 26:847-861.
Huang, W.-S., and D.A. Pike. 2011. Effects of intraguild predators on nest-site selection by prey. Oecologia 168:35-42.
Dubey, S., J. Sumner, D.A. Pike, J.S. Keogh, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2011. Genetic connectivity among populations of an endangered snake species from southeastern Australia (Hoplocephalus bungaroides, Elapidae). Ecology and Evolution 1:218-227.
Pike, D.A., J.K. Webb, and R.M. Andrews. 2011. Social and thermal cues influence nest-site selection in a nocturnal gecko, Oedura lesueurii. Ethology 117:796-801.
Huang, W.-S., and D.A. Pike. 2011. Does maternal care evolve through egg recognition or directed territoriality? Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24:1984-1991.
**Watch a video of lizard defending her nest from an egg-eating snake here
Huang, W.-S., and D.A. Pike. 2011. Determinants of homing in nest-guarding females: balancing risks while travelling through unfamiliar landscapes. Animal Behaviour 82:263-270.
Pike, D.A., J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2011. Chainsawing for conservation: ecologically-informed tree removal for habitat management. Ecological Management and Restoration 12:110-118.
Huang, W.-S., and D.A. Pike. 2011. Climate change impacts on fitness depend on nesting habitat in lizards. Functional Ecology 25:1125-1136.
City lizards not coping with climate change
Orchid Island skinks impacted by global warming
Urban lizards worse off with climate change
Pike, D.A., J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2011. Removing forest canopy restores a reptile assemblage. Ecological Applications 21:274-280.
Croak, B.M., D.A. Pike, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2010. Using artificial rocks to restore nonrenewable shelter sites in human-degraded systems: colonization by fauna. Restoration Ecology 18:428-438.
Pike, D.A., J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2010. Nesting in a thermally challenging environment: nest-site selection in a rock-dwelling gecko, Oedura lesueurii (Reptilia: Gekkonidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 99:250-259.
Penman, T.D., D.A. Pike, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2010. Predicting the impact of climate change on Australia’s most endangered snake, Hoplocephalus bungaroides. Diversity and Distributions 16:109-118.
Webb, J.K., D.A. Pike, and R. Shine. 2010. Olfactory recognition of predators by nocturnal lizards: safety outweighs thermal benefits. Behavioral Ecology 21:72-77.
Pike, D.A., B.M. Croak, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2010. Context-dependent avoidance of predatory centipedes by nocturnal geckos (Oedura lesueurii). Behaviour 147:397-412.
Pike, D.A., B.M. Croak, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2010. Subtle – but easily reversible – anthropogenic disturbance seriously degrades habitat quality for rock-dwelling reptiles. A nimal Conservation 13:411-418.
Read Conservation Maven article
Webb, J.K., W.-G. Du, D.A. Pike, and R. Shine. 2010. Generalization of predator recognition: velvet geckos display anti-predator behaviors in response to chemicals from non-dangerous elapid snakes. Current Zoology 56:337-342.
Shen, J.-W., D.A. Pike, and W.-G. Du. 2010. Movements and microhabitat use of translocated big-headed turtles (Platysternon megacephalum) in southern China. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 9:154-161.
Pike, D.A., and E.A. Roznik. 2009. Drowning in a sea of development: conservation status and distribution of a sand-swimming lizard, Plestiodon reynoldsi. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 4:96-105.
Pike, D.A. 2009. Do green turtles modify their nesting seasons in response to environmental temperatures? Chelonian Conservation and Biology 8:43-47.
Pike, D.A. 2009. Natural beaches produce more hatchling marine turtles than developed beaches, despite regional differences in hatching success. Biology Letters 5:268-269. *Online appendix
Webb, J.K., W.G. Du, D.A. Pike, and R. Shine. 2009. Chemical cues from both dangerous and nondangerous snakes elicit antipredator behaviours from a nocturnal lizard. Animal Behaviour 77:1471-1478.
Radder, R.S., D.A. Pike, A.E. Quinn, and R. Shine. 2009. Offspring sex in a lizard depends on egg size. Current Biology 19:1102-1105.
Read Scientific American article
Read Discover Magazine article
Webb, J.K., D.A. Pike, and R. Shine. 2008. Population ecology of the velvet gecko, Oedura lesueurii in south eastern Australia: implications for the persistence of an endangered snake. Austral Ecology 33:839-847.
Radder, R.S., M. Elphick, D.A. Warner, D.A. Pike, and R. Shine. 2008. Reproductive modes of lizards: measuring the fitness consequences of prolonged uterine retention of eggs. Functional Ecology 22:332-339.
Pike, D.A., L. Pizzatto, B.A. Pike, and R. Shine. 2008. Estimating survival rates of uncatchable animals: the myth of high juvenile mortality in reptiles. Ecology 89:607-611. *Online Appendices
Pike, D.A., K.S. Peterman, and J.H. Exum. 2008. Habitat structure influences the presence of sand skinks (Plestiodon reynoldsi) in altered habitats. Wildlife Research 35:120-127.
Pike, D.A. 2008. Environmental correlates of nesting in loggerhead turtles, Caretta caretta. Animal Behaviour 76:603-610.
Croak, B.M., D.A. Pike, J.K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2008. Three-dimensional crevice structure beneath rocks influences retreat site selection by nocturnal reptiles. Animal Behaviour 76:1875-1884.
Pike, D.A. 2008. Natural beaches confer fitness benefits to nesting marine turtles. Biology Letters 4:704-706.
Pike, D.A., and J.C. Stiner. 2007. Sea turtle species vary in their susceptibility to tropical cyclones. Oecologia 153:471-478.
Pike, D.A., and J.C. Stiner. 2007. Fluctuating reproductive output and environmental stochasticity: do years with more reproducing females result in more offspring? Canadian Journal of Zoology 85:737-742.
Pike, D.A. 2006. Movement patterns, habitat use, and growth of hatchling gopher tortoises, Gopherus polyphemus. Copeia 2006:68-76.
Pike, D.A., R.L. Antworth, and J.C. Stiner. 2006. Earlier nesting contributes to shorter nesting seasons for the loggerhead seaturtle, Caretta caretta. Journal of Herpetology 40:91-94.
Antworth, R.L., D.A. Pike, and J.C. Stiner. 2006. Nesting ecology, current status, and conservation of sea turtles on an uninhabited beach in Florida, USA. Biological Conservation 130:10-15. *Antworth and Pike contributed equally
Pike, D.A., and R.A. Seigel. 2006. Survivorship of hatchling tortoises at three geographic localities. Herpetologica 62:125-131.
Pike, D.A., A. Dinsmore, T. Crabill, R.B. Smith, and R.A. Seigel. 2005. Short-term effects of handling and permanently marking gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) on recapture rates and behavior. Applied Herpetology 2:139-147.
Antworth, R.L., D.A. Pike, and, E.E. Stevens. 2005. Hit and run: effects of scavenging on estimates of roadkilled vertebrates. Southeastern Naturalist 4:647-656.
Central European Journal of Biology (English Language Editor)
Herpetological Conservation and Biology (Associate Editor)
All photos on this page are copyright David A. Pike 2010-2012