Increased Metal Concentrations in Giant Sungazer Lizards (Smaug giganteus) from Mining Areas in South Africa

  • Trevor McIntyre
  • Martin J. Whiting


Environmental contaminants from anthropogenic activity such as mining can have profound health effects on the animals living in adjacent areas. We investigated whether inorganic contaminants associated with gold-mining waste discharges were accumulated by a threatened species of lizard, Smaug giganteus, in South Africa. Lizards were sampled from two mining sites and two control sites. Blood samples from the most contaminated mining site had significantly greater concentrations of lithium, sodium, aluminum, sulfur, silicon, chromium, manganese, iron, nickel, copper, tungsten, and bismuth than the remaining sites. Contaminant concentrations were not significantly related to lizard body condition, although these relationships were consistently negative. The adult sex ratio of the population inhabiting the most contaminated site also deviated from an expected 1:1 ratio in favour of female lizards. We demonstrate that lizards at these mining sites contained high concentrations of heavy metals that may be imposing as yet poorly understood costs to these lizards.


Body Condition Control Site Mining Site Prey Availability Invertebrate Abundance 
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We are especially grateful to Isabel Weiersbye for initiating this investigation and for providing general support, advice, and input into the data analyses. Ewa Cukrowska and Ruphat Morena of the Environmental Analytical Chemistry Group performed the quantification of elemental concentrations. Amelia Groenewald and Tercia Britz are thanked for logistical support in the field. Martin Groenewald, Nicholas Proctor, and Colin Amis and friends provided valuable field assistance. This project was performed under the Ecological Engineering and Phytoremediation Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, with project financial support received from the THRIP Programme of the Department of Trade and Industry and National Research Foundation to I. Weiersbye. We are grateful to AngloGold Ashanti and FreeGold (now Harmony) for the leverage of THRIP funding. All experimental procedures used were cleared by the Animal Ethics Screening Committee of the University of the Witwatersrand (Clearance No. 2003-69-3). A permit to conduct this research in the Free State Province was issued by the Free State Province Department of Tourism, Environmental and Economic Affairs (Permit No. HK/P1/06450/001).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandWitsSouth Africa
  2. 2.Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mammal Research InstituteUniversity of PretoriaHatfieldSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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