CIE Spotlight: Snakes on an island: independent introductions have different potentials for invasion

Fredrik C. and Patricia L.

Fredrik C. and Patricia L.

Title: Snakes on an island: independent introductions have different potentials for invasion

Authors: Catalina Monzón-Argüello, Clara Patiño-Martínez, Fredrik Christiansen, Ramón Gallo-Barneto, Miguel Ángel Cabrera-Pérez, Miguel Ángel Peña-Estévez, Luis Felipe López-Jurado, Patricia L.M. Lee

Source: Conservation Genetics, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1225-1241,October 2015 (published online)

Brief summary of the paper: Snakes alive! When snakes are found on an island that does not have indigenous snakes, we have come to expect devastating consequences for the native fauna.

Thus, the Canary Islands government reacted quickly in implementing a programme of eradication for the recently discovered populations of California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae) on the island of Gran Canaria.

Here, we used genetic data to demonstrate that the two main populations of snakes (separated by about 30 kms) were more likely to have been introduced separately.

Remarkably, the snakes at the two locations also differed in appearance (almost all were albinos in one location, but of normal colouration at the other), body shape and fecundity – with one population more successfully recruiting juveniles, and hence more likely to expand in the future.

While the proportions of different species of prey varied among locations, native reptiles constituted the majority of prey in both. We thus recommended continued eradication efforts, but also stressed the importance of monitoring native reptiles.