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Aggressive interactions during feeding between native and invasive freshwater turtles

Abstract

The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is a worldwide highly invasive species, currently introduced in most freshwater habitats as a consequence of massive pet trade. In the Iberian Peninsula, this species is competing with and displacing the endangered native Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa). Sliders are considered environmentally-aggressive turtles, capable of threatening or biting other individuals during competitive activities such as feeding. We hypothesized that agonistic behavior of introduced sliders against native terrapins might negatively affect the feeding efficiency of M. leprosa. We compared food ingestion of turtles and aggressive interactions during feeding, under situations of conspecific and heterospecific competition. The amount of food ingested by native and introduced turtles was similar under conspecific competition, but T. scripta ingested a greater percentage of food supplied under heterospecific competition. Also, introduced sliders initiated most of the aggressions observed during feeding activity, and aggression was more frequently directed to heterospecifics. Our results suggest a more aggressive and competitive behavior of introduced T. scripta in vying for food resources, which might contribute to explain the observed displacement of native populations of M. leprosa.

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Acknowledgments

We thank an anonymous referee for helpful comments, the “Grupo de Rehabilitación de la Fauna Autóctona y su Hábitat” (GREFA) for providing sliders and “El Ventorrillo” MNCN Field Station for use of their facilities. Financial support was provided by the MEC project CGL2005-00391/BOS and the MCI project CGL2008-02119/BOS, and by a MEC-FPU grant to N. P.-C. The experiments comply with all the present Spanish laws of the Environmental Organisms of the “Comunidad de Madrid” where they were performed.

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Correspondence to Nuria Polo-Cavia.

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Polo-Cavia, N., López, P. & Martín, J. Aggressive interactions during feeding between native and invasive freshwater turtles. Biol Invasions 13, 1387–1396 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-010-9897-2

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Keywords

  • Aggressiveness
  • Feeding competition
  • Freshwater turtles
  • Invasive species
  • Mauremys leprosa
  • Trachemys scripta