The introduction of alien species to islands by human activity can cause catastrophic consequences for small populations of island endemics. Hybridization between the endangered and endemic insular lizard Podarcis atrata (Boscá, 1916) from the Columbretes Islands (Mediterranean, Spain) and the common mainland lizard Podarcis hispanica (Steindachner, 1870) could potentially occur because mainland haplotypes have already been detected in the islands, the two species are closely genetically related, and the frequency of visitors to these islands is increasing. However, reproductive decisions of lizards are often mediated by species recognition mechanisms based on chemical cues. On the basis of this observation, even if some mainland P. hispanica lizards were introduced to the islands, interspecific recognition might make rare an eventual hybridization with the insular P. atrata. We examined interspecific chemical recognition between the insular P. atrata and the mainland P. hispanica. Our results showed that lizards of both sexes responded more strongly (i.e., directed a significantly higher number of tongue flicks) to scents of conspecific individuals than to scents of heterospecifics. Chemical recognition of conspecifics by endemic island P. atrata lizards may reduce the occurrence of hybridization with introduced mainland P. hispanica lizards and protect the insular gene pool.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology