Luca Canova and Mauro Fasola
The annual cycle of residence in water differed considerably among the three syntopic newts Triturus vulgaris, T cristatus and T. alpestris at a pond in northern Italy. T. vulgaris were resident in water for only short periods, which were used exclusively for reproduction. Adult T cristatus were present in the water for 3-4 months after reproduction, and regained weight during autumn. T. alpestris were present throughout the year; branchiate juveniles and neotenics were more abundant than adults.
Mauro Fasola, Stefano Mazzotti and Anna Pisapia
We describe the behavioral adaptations of a population of Hermann's tortoise to the climate of a northern sector of its range, and to a wooded biotope that is uncommon for the species. The activity, the home range, and the thermal relations along the daily and the yearly cycle are described. In contrast to other populations that have bimodal activity peaking in spring and in autumn, the tortoises in our study area had unimodal seasonal activity that can be related to lower summer temperatures. Home range size, 7.4 ha for females and 4.6 ha for males in our study area, was from three to seven times larger than that of all other populations. The large home range, and the low population density of the tortoises in our study area, may be due to food scarcity in the wooded habitat.
Roberto Sacchi, Daniele Pellitteri Rosa, Fabio Pupin and Mauro Fasola
We used geometric morphometric analysis to investigate latitudinal variation in size and shape of carapace and plastron of 111 Testudo hermanni hermanni (60 males and 51 females) collected in 6 different Italian regions. Basing on a sample of 14 landmarks for carapace and 18 landmarks for plastron, we showed that the size and shape of both sexes changed according to a North-South cline following the Bergmann's rule, tortoises of Northern Italy being 1.1-1.2 larger than that of Southern Italy. Shape variation was higher in carapace probably because sexual selection in this species acts stronger on plastron than on carapace shape.
Pietro Angelo Nardi, Elisa Altobelli, Paolo Galeotti, Fabio Pupin, Roberto Sacchi, Mauro Fasola and Diego Rubolini
Stefano Scali, Diego Rubolini, Mauro Fasola, Edoardo Razzetti, Roberto Sacchi, Fabio Pupin, Paolo Galeotti and Augusto Gentilli
Permanent colour polymorphism in lizards is maintained by complex interactions between environmental pressures and physiological traits (such as immune responsiveness) that differ among morphs. In this study we investigated whether T-cell mediated immune response vary among male colour morphs in the trimorphic (white, yellow and red) common wall lizard, Podarcis muralis. We found that yellow males showed a lower immune response compared to both red and white males, whose responses were similar. Thus, immune responsiveness is morph-specific in male common wall lizards, suggesting that this physiological trait could play an important role in maintaining colour polymorphism in this species. Moreover, immune responsiveness significantly increased with increasing male size, irrespective of colour morph, indicating that it could be regarded as a condition-dependent trait.
Fabio Pupin, Roberto Sacchi, Stefano Scali, Alessandra Binda, Marco Zuffi, Mauro Fasola, Eleonora Boncompagni and Paolo Galeotti
The morphology of erythrocytes, trombocytes, monocytes, basophils and lymphocytes on Moorish geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) is quite similar to that of other reptiles, even though some peculiarities were detected for heterophils and eosinophils. Moreover, we found a fourth type of granulocyte whose morphology highly differs from both heterophils and eosinophils. Sexually-based differences in the relative abundance of different types of leukocytes was detected: lymphocytes were the most frequent in females, while heterophils and eosinophils prevailed in males. Interestingly, in most individuals we found intra-erythrocytic vacuoles whose structure is similar to that previously described as Chelonoplasma in tortoises and Serpentoplasma in snakes.
Mauro Fasola, Daniele Pellitteri-Rosa, Fabio Pupin, Stefano Scali, Roberto Sacchi, Franco Bernini, Augusto Gentilli and Edoardo Razzetti
Repatriations and translocations are among the most frequent actions deployed for conservation of amphibians all over the world. However, very few studies have analysed the effectiveness of these actions. The aims of this study were i) to measure the success of repatriations of Rana latastei carried out within a conservation project in Lombardy (Northern Italy) from 1999 to 2001, and ii) to analyse how the environmental factors affected repatriation success. Eighteen ponds were surveyed from February to April 2006, for an overall of 45 field surveys. Each pond was carefully checked for frogs and egg masses. We classified each pond as newly excavated or pre-existing according to habitat management actions and we measured 16 variables concerning micro- and macro-habitat characteristics, human disturbance and presence of predators. Rana latastei was found in 33.3% of monitored sites and the repatriation outcome of tadpole release did not differ between newly excavated and non managed ponds. Habitat variables influenced the success of repatriations, which increased in sites with higher percentage of woodlands. Finally, repatriation outcome was also negatively influenced by human disturbance and predator occurrence.
Daniele Pellitteri-Rosa, Veronica Maiocchi, Stefano Scali, Luca Racina, Luca Cavigioli, Roberto Sacchi, Mauro Fasola, Paolo Galeotti, Augusto Gentilli, Serena Tettamanti and Fabio Pupin
Photographic identification is a promising marking technique alternative to the toe-clipping, since it is completely harmless, cheap, and it allows long time identification of individuals. Its application to ecological studies is mainly limited by the time consuming to compare pictures within large datasets and the huge variation of ornamentation patterns among different species, which prevent the possibility that a single algorithm can effectively work for more than few species. Scales of Reptiles offer an effective alternative to ornamentations for computer aided identification procedures, since both shape and size of scales are unique to each individual, thus acting as a fingerprint like ornamentation patterns do. We used the Interactive Individual Identification System (I3S) software to assess whether different individuals of two species of European lizards (Podarcis muralis and Lacerta bilineata) can be reliably photographically identified using the pattern of the intersections among pectoral scales as fingerprints. We found that I3S was able to identify different individuals among two samples of 21 individuals for each species independently from the error associated to the ability of the operators in collecting pictures and in digitizing the pattern of intersections among pectoral scales. In a database of 1043 images of P. muralis collected between 2007 and 2008, the software recognized 98% of recaptures within each year, and 99% of the recaptures between years. In addition, 99% and 96% of matches were ranked among the top five, and no more than 5 minutes were needed for digitizing and processing each image. The lepidosis of reptiles is a reliable alternative to ornamentation patterns in photographic identification of reptiles, which can be effectively analysed using the I3S software. This result represents a significant improvement in photographic identification of reptiles since (i) this procedure can be easily extended to most other species of reptiles, (ii) all kind of individuals within a species can be marked (i.e., young, subadults and adults) despite the differences in ornamentation patterns, and (iii) it is the only technique for species, like the western green lizard, which lack a clear ornamentation pattern.