The fall of a symbol? A high predation rate by the introduced horseshoe whip snake Hemorrhois hippocrepis paints a bleak future for the endemic Ibiza wall lizard Podarcis pityusensis

Hinckley, Arlo; Montes, Elba; Ayllon, Enrique; Pleguezuelos, Juan M.

VL / 63 - BP / - EP /
Invasive species currently account for a major threat to global biodiversity, and island ecosystems are among the most vulnerable, because of the frequency and success of species introductions on islands. Within Mediterranean islands, reptiles not only are frequently introduced species but are also among the most threatened because of these introductions. The Balearic archipelago is a good example of this, since only two of its current 16 species of reptiles are native. Thirteen years ago, the snake Hemorrhois hippocrepis was introduced by cargo in Ibiza island, and it is in expansion. Individuals obtained from an early eradication campaign showed a fast expression of phenotypic plasticity and acquired larger sizes than those of the source population, probably due to a high prey availability and predator scarcity. The species is thriving at the expense of a small variety of native and non-native prey, but the predation pressure on the endemic Podarcis pityusensis, the only native reptile in the island, is very high, as this lizard represents 56% of the prey in frequency, which might threaten its survival on the long term. Our results on the feeding ecology of the snake are of sufficient concern to justify the maintenance of actions to eradicate this invader.

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