Ecology and Evolution

Comparing the dietary niche overlap and ecomorphological differences between invasive Hemidactylus mabouia geckos and a native gecko competitor

Abstract

Hemidactylus mabouia is one of the most successful, widespread invasive reptile species and has become ubiquitous across tropical urban settings in the Western Hemisphere. Its ability to thrive in close proximity to humans has been linked to the rapid disap-pearance of native geckos. However, aspects of Hemidactylus mabouia natural history and ecomorphology, often assumed to be linked with this effect on native popula-tions, remain understudied or untested. Here, we combine data from ∂15N and ∂13C stable isotopes, stomach contents, and morphometric analyses of traits associated with feeding and locomotion to test alternate hypotheses of displacement between H. mabouia and a native gecko, Phyllodactylus martini, on the island of Curaçao. We demonstrate substantial overlap of invertebrate prey resources between the species, with H. mabouia stomachs containing larger arthropod prey as well as vertebrate prey. We additionally show that H. mabouia possesses several morphological advantages, including larger sizes in feeding-associated traits and limb proportions that could offer a propulsive locomotor advantage on vertical surfaces. Together, these findings pro-vide the first support for the hypotheses that invasive H. mabouia and native P. martinioverlap in prey resources and that H. mabouia possess ecomorphological advantages over P. martini. This work provides critical context for follow-up studies of H. mabouiaand P. martini natural history and direct behavioral experiments that may ultimately il-luminate the mechanisms underlying displacement on this island and act as a potential model for other systems with Hemidactylus mabouia invasions.

KEYWORDSfood web, invasive species, trophic ecology, urbanization, vertebrate biodiversity loss
 

Date
2021
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Education and outreach
Geographic location
Curacao

Range‐wide population genetic structure of the Caribbean marine angiosperm Thalassia testudinum

Many marine species have widespread geographic ranges derived from their evolu-tionary and ecological history particularly their modes of dispersal. Seagrass (marine angiosperm) species have ranges that are unusually widespread, which is not unex-pected following recent reviews of reproductive strategies demonstrating the poten-tial for long-distance dispersal combined with longevity through clonality. An exemplar of these dual biological features is turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) which is an ecologically important species throughout the tropical Atlantic region. Turtle grass has been documented to have long-distance dispersal via floating fruits and also extreme clonality and longevity. We hypothesize that across its range, Thalassia testudinum will have very limited regional population structure due to these charac-teristics and under typical models of population structure would expect to detect high levels of genetic connectivity. There are very few studies of range-wide genetic connectivity documented for seagrasses or other sessile marine species. This study presents a population genetic dataset that represents a geographic area exceeding 14,000 km2. Population genetic diversity was evaluated from 32 Thalassia testudinumpopulations sampled across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Genotypes were based on nine microsatellites, and haplotypes were based on chloroplast DNA se-quences. Very limited phylogeographic signal from cpDNA reduced the potential comparative analyses possible. Multiple analytical clustering approaches on popula-tion genetic data revealed two significant genetic partitions: (a) the Caribbean and (b) the Gulf of Mexico. Genetic diversity was high (HE = 0.641), and isolation by distance was significant; gene flow and migration estimates across the entire range were how-ever modest, we suggest that the frequency of successful recruitment across the range is uncommon. Thalassia testudinum maintains genetic diversity across its entire distribution range. The genetic split may be explained by genetic drift during recolo-nization from refugia following relatively recent reduction in available habitat such as the last glacial maxima.KEYWORDSgene flow, genetic differentiation, Gulf of Mexico, long-distance dispersal, seagrass, turtle grass

Date
2018
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Curacao

Range-wide population genetic structure of the Caribbean marine angiosperm Thalassia testudinum

Many marine species have widespread geographic ranges derived from their evolutionary and ecological history particularly their modes of dispersal. Seagrass (marine angiosperm) species have ranges that are unusually widespread, which is not unexpected following recent reviews of reproductive strategies demonstrating the potential for long-distance dispersal combined with longevity through clonality. An exemplar of these dual biological features is turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) which is an ecologically important species throughout the tropical Atlantic region. Turtle grass has been documented to have long-distance dispersal via floating fruits and also extreme clonality and longevity. We hypothesize that across its range, Thalassia testudinum will have very limited regional population structure due to these characteristics and under typical models of population structure would expect to detect high levels of genetic connectivity. There are very few studies of range-wide genetic connectivity documented for seagrasses or other sessile marine species. This study presents a population genetic dataset that represents a geographic area exceeding 14,000 km2. Population genetic diversity was evaluated from 32 Thalassia testudinum populations sampled across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Genotypes were based on nine microsatellites, and haplotypes were based on chloroplast DNA se-quences. Very limited phylogeographic signal from cpDNA reduced the potential comparative analyses possible. Multiple analytical clustering approaches on population genetic data revealed two significant genetic partitions: (a) the Caribbean and (b) the Gulf of Mexico. Genetic diversity was high (HE = 0.641), and isolation by distance was significant; gene flow and migration estimates across the entire range were however modest, we suggest that the frequency of successful recruitment across the range is uncommon. Thalassia testudinum maintains genetic diversity across its entire distribution range. The genetic split may be explained by genetic drift during recolonization from refugia following relatively recent reduction in available habitat such as the last glacial maxima.

Date
2018
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Document
Geographic location
Curacao

Population structure and connectivity of the mountainous star coral, Orbicella faveolata, throughout the wider Caribbean region,

As coral reefs continue to decline worldwide, it becomes ever more necessary to understand the connectivity between coral populations to develop efficient management strategies facilitating survival and adaptation of coral reefs in the future. Orbicella faveolata is one of the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean and has recently experienced severe population reductions. Here, we utilize a panel of nine microsatellite loci to evaluate the genetic structure of O. faveolata and to infer connectivity across ten sites spanning the wider Caribbean region. Populations are generally well-mixed throughout the basin (FST = 0.038), although notable patterns of substructure arise at local and regional scales. Eastern and western populations appear segregated with a genetic break around the Mona Passage in the north, as has been shown previously in other species; however, we find evidence for significant connectivity between Curaçao and Mexico, suggesting that the southern margin of this barrier is permeable to dispersal. Our results also identify a strong genetic break within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System associated with complex oceanographic patterns that promote larval retention in southern Belize. Additionally, the diverse genetic signature at Flower Garden Banks suggests its possible function as a downstream genetic sink. The findings reported here are relevant to the ongoing conservation efforts for this important and threatened species, and contribute to the growing understanding of large-scale coral reef connectivity throughout the wider Caribbean.

Date
2017
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Curacao

Phylogeographic patterns of a lower intertidal isopod in the Gulf of California and the Caribbean and comparison with other intertidal isopods

A growing body of knowledge on the diversity and evolution of intertidal isopods across different regions worldwide has enhanced our understanding on biological diversification at the poorly studied, yet vast, sea–land interface. High genetic divergences among numerous allopatric lineages have been identified within presumed single broadly distributed species. Excirolana mayana is an intertidal isopod that is commonly found in sandy beaches throughout the Gulf of California. Its distribution in the Pacific extends from this basin to Colombia and in the Atlantic from Florida to Venezuela. Despite its broad distribution and ecological importance, its evolutionary history has been largely neglected. Herein, we examined phylogeographic patterns of E. mayana in the Gulf of California and the Caribbean, based on maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequences from four mitochondrial genes (16S rDNA, 12S rDNA, cytochrome oxidase I gene, and cytochrome b gene). We compared the phylogeographic patterns of E. mayana with those of the coastal isopods Ligia and Excirolana braziliensis (Gulf of California and Caribbean) and Tylos (Gulf of California). We found highly divergent lineages in both, the Gulf of California and Caribbean, suggesting the presence of multiple species. We identified two instances of Atlantic–Pacific divergences. Some geographical structuring among the major clades found in the Caribbean is observed. Haplotypes from the Gulf of California form a monophyletic group sister to a lineage found in Venezuela. Phylogeographic patterns of E. mayana in the Gulf of California differ from those observed in Ligia and Tylos in this region. Nonetheless, several clades of E. mayana have similar distributions to clades of these two other isopod taxa. The high levels of cryptic diversity detected in E. mayana also pose challenges for the conservation of this isopod and its fragile environment, the sandy shores.

Date
2016
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire