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The Horseshoe whip snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) on Ibiza: predator release in an invasive population

In: Amphibia-Reptilia
Authors:
Elba MontesDepartment of Zoology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Valencia, c/Dr. Moliner, 50, Burjassot, E-46100, Valencia, Spain

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Mónica FericheDepartment of Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, Granada University, E-18071 Granada, Spain

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Esmeralda AlaminosSciences Department, Granada Sciences Park, Granada, Spain

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Juan Manuel PleguezuelosDepartment of Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, Granada University, E-18071 Granada, Spain

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Abstract

The key to fighting a biological invasion may lie in understanding every variable that can explain its success. The Enemy Release Hypothesis (ERH) states that when an invader arrives to a new environment, the absence of its common enemies (predators, parasites and competitors) facilitates the invasion success. The Horseshoe whip snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) has been recently introduced from the Iberian Peninsula to the island of Ibiza, and it is currently threatening the only endemic vertebrate, the Ibiza wall lizard (Podarcis pityusensis). We hypothesized that the snake invasion success is caused by the absence of natural predators, and we checked the ERH by relating the tail breakage rate to predation pressure. The invasive population showed a much lower incidence of tail breakage than the source population, which is in agreement with the almost absence of snake predators among the Ibizan reduced and naïve native vertebrate community. These results confirm the ERH, and support the prolongation of invasive snake trapping campaigns.

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