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Documenting the introduction of the Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758) (Squamata: Phyllodactylidae) on the Levant and Port-Cros Islands (Hyères Archipelago, Var department, France)

  • AHPAM (Association Herpétologique de Provence Alpes Méditerranée)
  • self-employed
The archipelago of the Hyères islands consists mainly
of four French Mediterranean islands: Porquerolles,
Port-Cros, Bagaud and the Levant (Fig 1). The Moorish
gecko, Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758), is
mentioned as absent from these islands (Lantz, 1932;
Knoepffler, 1960; Cheylan, 1983; Geniez and Cheylan,
2012), except for Porquerolles where the species was
discovered in 2001 (Cluchier and Cheylan, 2004;
Astruc and Cheylan, 2008). The native herpetofauna
of the islands includes the European leaf-toed gecko
Euleptes europaea (Gené, 1839). The Turkish gecko
Hemidactylus turcicus (Linnaeus, 1758) colonised more
recently the western Mediterranean and is not considered
here as a native species of its islands (Carranza and
Arnold, 2006; Moravec et al. 2011; Rato et al., 2011;
Šmíd et al., 2013; Silva-Rocha et al., 2019).
The Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica was
unknown from the Levant Island until one adult
individual was opportunistically sighted in the village of
Héliopolis on 4 November 2017 during the settlement
of a protocol for the assessment of the conservation
status of the Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus
sardus Tschudi in Otth 1837 (Deso et al., 2018). To our
knowledge, this is the first record of T. mauritanica on
the island (Geniez and Cheylan, 2012). Following this
observation, we examined a dozen photographs made
by amateur naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts since
2007, which were posted on a website run by one of the
authors (FC Among
Herpetology Notes, volume 13: 809-812 (2020) (published online on 05 October 2020)
Documenting the introduction of the Moorish gecko
Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758) (Squamata:
Phyllodactylidae) on the Levant and Port-Cros Islands
(Hyères Archipelago, Var department, France)
Grégory Deso1,*, Julien Renet2, Marie-Claire Gomez3, Pauline Priol4, Frédéric Capoulade5, David Geoffroy3,
Rémi Duguet6, and Catarina Rato7
1 Ahpam (Association herpétologique de Provence Alpes
Méditerranée), Maison des associations 384 route de
Caderousse, 84100 Orange, France.
2 Conservatoire d’espaces naturels de Provence-Alpes-Côte
d’Azur, Pôle Biodiversité régionale, 96, rue Droite, 04200,
Sisteron, France.
3 Parc national de Port-Cros, 181 Allée du Castel Sainte Claire,
BP 70220, 83406 Hyères Cedex, France.
4 Statipop-Consulting scientifique-Suivi de populations
animales, 34190 Ganges, France.
5 Corniche de la Galère, 83400 Ile du Levant, France.
6 Alcedo Faune et Flore, 85 impasse Bas Laval, 07110 Sanilhac,
7 CIBIO, Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic
Resources, InBIO, Universidade do Porto, Campus de
Vairão, Rua Padre Armando Quintas nº7, Vairão 4485 - 661,
Vila do Conde, Portugal.
* Corresponding author. E-mail:
Figure 1. Locations at which Moorish Gecko Tarentola
mauritanica was found on the Levant and Port-Cros islands.
Grégory Deso et al.
the many photographs of reptile species, two of them
depicted the Moorish gecko. One of the pictures shows
a juvenile photographed on the Heliopolis beach on 21
October 2010 and the other one, an adult, on the 29 May
2016 (Fig. 2). Both photographs were taken by FC.
These pictures from the Levant island confirm
the presence of T. mauritanica since at least 2010.
Furthermore, two juveniles were photographed on 29
January 2019 in the military zone of the island, 2 km
further east of the first records made in the civil part
of the island, which supports the hypotheses of either a
possible successful mating or the result of an introduced
pregnant female in the island. Their presence is observed
in the anthropogenic densest urbanised area (Joss
Deffarges, pers. comm.). This is not surprising, since T.
mauritanica is known to be frequently associated with
anthropogenic environments, such as houses and stone
walls, especially near artificial lights that attract insect
prey (Arnold and Ovenden, 2002). Hence, this close
relationship with humans, sometimes leads to accidental
anthropogenic introductions of these geckos into new
Since the arrival of the Moorish gecko on the island
of Porquerolles, the National Park of Port-Cros has
ordered the monitoring of the colonisation pattern of
the species on this island (Astruc et al., 2014) and has
set up surveillance of a potential arrival on the Island
of Port-Cros (Medail et al., 2013). In the fall of 2018,
the Moorish gecko was reported for the first time with
certainty on the island of Port-Cros (DG pers. obs.,
Table 1).
The biogeographic pattern of the European colonisation
of the Moorish gecko is complex and could result from
a combination of recent human-mediated colonisation
and more ancient natural colonisations from North
Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar (Harris et al.,
2004a, b; Perera and Harris, 2008; Rato et al., 2010,
2012). Moreover, the phylogeographic study from Rato
et al. (2010) suggests that the current genetic diversity of
the European populations of the Moorish gecko seem to
be the result of both recent colonisations and selection.
Most occurrences reported on European islands are
suspected to result from human activity (Jesus et al.,
2008; Barreiros et al., 2010; Mačát et al., 2014; Rato,
2015; Mizerakis and Strachinis, 2017; Strachinis
and Pafilis, 2018). Since the species has never been
previously recorded in the Levant Island (Geniez and
Cheylan, 2012), its presence there is probably the result
of a recent accidental human-mediated introduction.
The presence of T. mauritanica on these islands could
represent a threat to non-native gecko species such as H.
turcicus, and the native species, E. europaea (Astruc et
al., 2014). At least on the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic
Islands (Martínez-Rica, 1974) and in the Croatian part
of the Eastern Adriatic (Lisičić et al., 2012), studies on
sympatric populations of T. mauritanica and H. turcicus
have shown that the presence of the former induces a
spatial shift on the latter, enabling their co-existence
and exploration of distinct micro-habitats. However,
there is still no strong evidence regarding the existence
Figure 2. Adult Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica,
Levant Island, 29/05/2016.
Table 1: Geographic coordinates of locations at which Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica was found on the
Levant and Port-Cros islands
Island Locality number
Latitude °N Longitude °E
Observer Year
Port-Cros 1 43.0101 6.3827 D. Geoffroy 2018
Levant 2 43.0156 6.4346 F. Capo ulade 2010
Levant 3 43.0156 6.4367 F. Capo ulade 2016
Levant 4 43.0161 6.4394 G. Deso 2017
Levant 5 43.0241 6.4584 J. Desffarges 2019
Table 1. Geographic coordinates of locations at which Moorish
Gecko Tarentola mauritanica was found on the Levant and
Port-Cros islands.
of negative effects of one species over the other
(competitive exclusion).
Our observations suggest that the monitoring of T.
mauritanica should be implemented on both Levant and
Port-Cros islands to better understand its distribution,
and the possible impact it can have on native and
allochthonous gecko species.
Acknowledgements. We thank Joss Deffarges for sending us his
data in the military zone. We warmly thank Jean-Pierre Vacher
for his help with translation and his quality proofreading that has
improved the manuscript. We thank Nicolas Dubos for reviewing
the manuscript. We also thank Wouter Beukema for providing a
quality proofreading of the manuscript.
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Grégory Deso et al.
Accepted by Wouter Beukema
... The assignment of Alborán's Moorish gecko to the European/North African genetic clade is not a surprise, and had already been uncovered by Rato et al. (2010). Apart from that, this clade is characterized by its wide distribution range (Rato et al. 2016), being recurrently introduced in several Mediterranean islands (e.g., Deso et al. 2020). In contrast, this is the first record of the Iberian clade outside its native range, suggesting either at least two different waves of colonisation by T. mauritanica (already suggested by Paracuellos et al. 2005) or from a single locality in Iberia where both clades are sympatric. ...
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