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European newts establish in Australia, marking the arrival of a new amphibian order

Abstract

We document the successful establishment of a European newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) in south-eastern Australia, the first recorded case of a caudate species establishing beyond its native geographic range in the southern hemisphere. Field surveys in south-eastern Australia detected L. vulgaris at six sites, including four sites where the species had been detected 15 months earlier. Larvae were detected at three sites. Individuals had identical NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 and cytb mtDNA gene sequences, and comparisons with genetic data from the species’ native range suggest that these individuals belong to the nominal subspecies L. v. vulgaris. Climatic conditions across much of southern Australia are similar to those experienced within the species’ native range, suggesting scope for substantial range expansion. Lissotriton vulgaris had been available in the Australian pet trade for decades before it was declared a ‘controlled pest animal’ in 1997, and thus the invasion documented here likely originated via the release or escape of captive animals. Lissotriton vulgaris is the sole member of an entire taxonomic order to have established in Australia, and given the potential toxicity of this species, further work is needed to delimit its current range and identify potential biodiversity impacts.

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Acknowledgements

Adam Kay, Matt Ward, Aaron Dodd, John Weiss, and Michael Tyler provided invaluable details on the L. vulgaris introduction. Claire Keely, Patrick Honan and Joanna Sumner from Museum Victoria kindly provided tissue samples. RT, AS and MM were supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, MM was supported by an ARC Future Fellowship, and ARW was supported by an ARC Australian Research Fellowship.

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Correspondence to Reid Tingley.

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Tingley, R., Weeks, A.R., Smart, A.S. et al. European newts establish in Australia, marking the arrival of a new amphibian order. Biol Invasions 17, 31–37 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-014-0716-z

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Keywords

  • Caudata
  • Climate match
  • Lissotriton vulgaris
  • Pet trade
  • Potential distribution
  • Triturus vulgaris
  • Urodela