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Invasive Italian wall lizards outcompete native congeneric species in finding food in a Y-maze

A Correction to this article was published on 03 November 2021

This article has been updated

Abstract

Though biological invasions constitute one of the biggest threats for global biodiversity, our understanding of the mechanisms that enable invasive species to outperform native species is still limited, especially, in terms of behavior. Most available studies have examined behavioral traits which favor invasive species on the later stages of invasion, however, our knowledge on earlier stages, namely, when alien species face novel environments and must exploit new resources, remains obscure. Here, we focus on one crucial behavioral trait, finding food. The Italian wall lizard (Podarcis siculus) has been widely introduced and established viable populations in S. Europe and N. America. We examined whether P. siculus has enhanced exploratory behavior and abilities to find food compared to two native congeneric species with which it may come in contact in the near future, an insular endemic (P. milensis) and a widely distributed lizard (P. erhardii). We performed a Y-maze experiment, in which we varied arm markings in a standard way to prevent learning. Podarcis siculus was more efficient than its congenerics in finding and consuming food. This exploitative superiority was persistent, more frequent and repetitive. Interesting behavioral differences were also detected within the native species. Some P. milensis individuals showed no interest in exploring the maze, while few P. erhardii individuals remained rather indifferent to food even after detecting it. Our results suggest that the invasive P. siculus displays behavioral traits that could provide better opportunities for survival in the new environment and thus facilitate establishment even in the presence of congenerics. This provides further support to the idea that behavior plays a crucial role in animal invasions.

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Availability of data and material

The datasets generated during and analyzed during the current study are available online on Figshare: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.14709843.v1

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This study was conducted on a voluntary basis with no funding sources.

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Panayiotis Pafilis and Chloe Adamopoulou conceived the study. Anastasios Limnios, Panayiotis Pafilis and Chloe Adamopoulou designed the experiment. Anastasios Limnios and Chloe Adamopoulou collected the animals. Anastasios Limnios performed the experiment. Anastasios Limnios and Miguel A. Carretero performed the statistical analysis. All authors wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Anastasios Limnios.

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The original online version of this article was revised: The first Subtitle of Table 2 should be read "Success" not "First Correct Decision Time—Time to Decision Point". The Table 2 has been of the above article has been corrected.

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Limnios, A., Adamopoulou, C., Carretero, M.A. et al. Invasive Italian wall lizards outcompete native congeneric species in finding food in a Y-maze. acta ethol 25, 43–55 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-021-00385-8

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Keywords

  • Animal invasions
  • Exploitative competition
  • Podarcis siculus
  • Behavioral traits
  • Congeneric species