Trade and stowaways: molecular evidence for human-mediated translocation of eastern skinks into the western Mediterranean

In: Amphibia-Reptilia
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  • 1 Unitat de Paleontologia, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Edifici W3, Zona Educacional 4, Campus Sescelades, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 43007 Tarragona, Spain
  • | 2 Àrea de Prehistòria, Departament d’Història i Història de l’Art, Facultat de Lletres, Universitat Rovira i Virgili(URV), Avinguda de Catalunya 35, 43002 Tarragona, Spain
  • | 3 Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE-CSIC/Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
  • | 4 Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia Evolutiva (ICBiBE), Universitat de València. C/ Catedràtic José Beltrán Martínez 2, 46980 Paterna, València, Spain
  • | 5 Área de Ecología, Departamento de Biodiversidad y Gestión Ambiental, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de León (ULE). Callejón Campus Vegazana s/n, 24071 León, Spain
  • | 6 Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN-CSIC), C/ José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
  • | 7 EMCUJU Archaeologist, Ayuntamiento de Alpuente, C/ Rey Don Jaime 5, 46178 Alpuente, València, Spain
  • | 8 Secció de Estudis Científics, Associació Herpetològica Timon (AHT), C/ València 32, 46195 Llombai, València, Spain
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Human movements in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea have caused a great impact in the composition of terrestrial fauna due to the introductions of several allochthonous species, intentionally or not. Reptiles are one of the groups where this anthropic impact is most evident, owing to the extensive intra-Mediterranean dispersals of recent chronologies. Chalcides ocellatus is a widespread skink with a natural distribution that covers almost the entire Mediterranean Basin. Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain its origin: natural dispersions and human translocations. Previous molecular data suggest the occurrence of a recent dispersal phenomenon across the Mediterranean Sea. In this study we present the first record of this species in the Iberian Peninsula, in Serra del Molar (South-east Spain). We combined molecular analyses and archaeological records to study the origin of this population. The molecular results indicate that the population is phylogenetically closely related to specimens from north-eastern Egypt and southern Red Sea. We suggest that the species arrived at the Iberian Peninsula most likely through human-mediated dispersal by using the trade routes. Between the Iron to Middle Ages, even now, the region surrounding Serra del Molar has been the destination of human groups and commercial goods of Egyptian origins, in which Chalcides ocellatus could have arrived as stowaways. The regional geomorphological evolution would have restricted its expansion out of Serra del Molar. These findings provide new data about the impact of human movements on faunal introductions and present new information relating to mechanisms of long-distance translocations.

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