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Herpetological History of the Balearic Islands: When Aliens Conquered These Islands and What to Do Next
Abstract and Figures
Balearic herpetofauna represents a paradigmatic case of multiple biological invasions within the Mediterranean Basin, with a much higher number of alien amphibians (i.e. frogs and toads) and reptiles (i.e. lizards, snakes and turtles/tortoises) than native. The paleogeography of the Balearic Islands, located on Western Mediterranean between Spain and Sardinia, is complex, comprehending an ancient split from the continent during the late Miocene and Pleistocene climatic fluctuations connecting and disconnecting islands from one another (but not them to the continent) that eventually re-shaped the archipelago’s biota. The archipelago has been also influenced by humans since the Neolithic, being a cross-road for alien biota between North Africa and Southern Europe, which caused range regressions and extinctions in the native herpetofauna, nowadays restricted to one amphibian and two reptiles. During the last century, tourism development, the pet trade, and cargo transport of ornamental plants have produced a new wave of biological invasions. Recently introduced snakes are of particular concern, since the effect of predation may seriously threaten the remaining native reptiles in the main islands and endemic subspecies in surrounding islets. Balearic people have a negative social perception of such snakes, mainly due to the lack of familiarity with snakes among islanders but also to the herpetophobic attitude of many Mediterranean cultures. Here we review the herpetological invasions in the Balearic Archipelago and their impacts. We further discuss the on-going management actions on alien reptiles in this archipelago, namely the control of invasive snakes in Ibiza involving monitoring, trapping, environmental education and promotion of social participation.
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