ArticlePDF Available

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)

Authors:
  • 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 http://www.iledulevanthodie.fr/). 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,
France.
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: ahpam.contact@gmail.com
Figure 1. Locations at which Moorish Gecko Tarentola
mauritanica was found on the Levant and Port-Cros islands.
Grégory Deso et al.
810
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
areas.
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.
1
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.
References
Arnold, E.N., Ovenden, D.W. (2002): A field guide to the reptiles
and amphibians of Britain and Europe. London: Herper Collins.
Astruc, G., Cheylan, M. (2008): Suivi de l’implantation de la tarente
de Maurétanie Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758) sur l’île
de Porquerolles. Impact sur l’espèce autochtone l’hémidactyle
verruqueux Hemidactylus turcicus (Linnaeus, 1758). Rapport
Parc national de Port-Cros, Hyères, pp. 13.
Astruc, G., Couturier, T., Cheylan, M., Besnard, A. (2014): Suivi
de l’implantation de la Tarente commune Tarentola mauritanica
(Linnaeus, 1758) sur l’île de Porquerolles. Impact sur les espèces
autochtones: L’Hémidactyle verruqueux, Hemidactylus turcicus
(Linnaeus, 1758) et le Phyllodactyle d’Europe, Euleptes europea
(Gené, 1839). Rapport technique, Parc National de Port-Cros,
Hyères, pp. 29.
Báez, M., Biscoito, M. (1993): First record of Tarentola mauritanica
(Linneus, 1758) from the island of Madeira. Macaronesian
Congress, 1993.
Barreiros, J.P., Elias, R.B., Lourenço, J., Dias, E., Borges, P.
(2010): First records of Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758)
(Reptilia; Gekkonidae) in the Azores. Arquipelago. Life and
Marine Sciences 27: 73–75.
Carranza, S., Arnold, E.N. (2006): Systematics, biogeography,
and evolution of Hemidactylus geckos (Reptilia: Gekkonidae)
elucidated using mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular
Phylogenetics and Evolution 38: 531–545.
Cheylan, M. (1983): Statut actuel des Reptiles et Amphibiens de
l’archipel des îles d’Hyères (Var, Sud-est de la France). Travaux
Scientifiques du Parc National de Port-Cros 9: 35–51.
Cluchier, A., Cheylan, M. (2004): Suivi de l’implantation de
la tarente de Maurétanie Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus,
1758) sur l’île de Porquerolles. Impact sur l’espèce autochtone
l’hémidactyle verruqueux Hemidactylus turcicus (Linnaeus,
1758). Rapport Parc national de Port-Cros, Hyères, pp. 9.
Deso, G., Gomez, M.-C., Priol, P., Capoulade, F., Duguet, R.
(2018): Premières mentions de la tarente de Maurétanie
Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758) et de la grenouille
rieuse Pelophylax ridibundus (Pallas, 1771) sur l’île du Levant
(îles d’Hyères, Var). Scientific Reports of Port-Cros National
Park 32: 237–240.
Geniez, P., Cheylan, M. (2012): Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus,
1758). Tarente de Maurétanie. In: Lescure, J., Massary, J.-C.,
Atlas des Amphibiens et Reptiles de France, p. 168-169. Biotope
Éditions, Mèze/Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris
(Collection Inventaires & Biodiversité).
Harris, D.J., Batista, V., Lymberakis, P., Carretero, M.A. (2004a):
Complex estimates of evolutionary relationships in Tarentola
mauritanica (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) derived from mitochondrial
DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 30(3):
855–859.
Harris, D.J., Batista, V., Carretero, M.A., Ferrand, N. (2004b):
Genetic variation in Tarentola mauritanica (Reptilia:
Gekkonidae) across the Strait of Gibraltar derived from
mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences. Amphibia-Reptilia
25(4): 451–459.
Jahandiez, E. (1929): Les îles d’Hyères (3e édition). Rebufa et
Rouard, Toulon, pp. 447.
Jesus, J., Lemos, R., Goncalves, R., Brehm, A. (2008): First record
of Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758) on Porto Santo
Island. Herpetozoa 20: 175–177.
Knoepffler, L.P. (1960): Additifs à la faune herpétologique des îles
d’Hyères. Vie Milieu 11(2): 331.
Lantz, L.A. (1932): Note sur la faune herpétologique des îles
d’Hyères. Bulletin de la Société Zoologique de France 56:
420–422.
Lisičić, D., Drakulić, S., Herrel, A., Dikić, D., Benković, B.,
Tadić, Z. (2012). Effect of competition on habitat utilization in
two temperate climate gecko species. Ecological Research 27:
551–560.
Mačát, Z., Starcová, Μ., Červenka, J., Jablonski, D., Šandera, M.
(2014): A molecular assessment and first record of Tarentola
mauritanica (Squamata: Phyllodactylidae) on Corfu, Greece.
Salamandra 50(3): 172–176.
Martínez-Rica, J.P. (1974). Contribución al estudio de la biología
de los gecónidos ibéricos (Rept. Sauria). Publicaciones del
Centro Pirenaico de Biología Experimental, CSIC 5: 7–293.
Médail, F., Cheylan, G., Ponel, P. (2013): Dynamique
des paysages et de la biodiversité terrestres du Parc
national de Port-Cros (Var, France): enseignements de
cinquante années de gestion conservatoire. Scientific
Reports of the Port-Cros national Park 27: 171–262.
Mizerakis, V., Strachinis, I. (2017): new record of Tarentola
mauritanica (squamata: Phyllodactylidae) from Lesvos island,
Greece. Herpetology Notes 10: 157–159.
Moravec J., Kratochvíl, L., Amr, Z.S., Jandzik, D., Šmíd, J.,
Gvoždík, V. (2011): High genetic differentiation within the
Hemidactylus turcicus complex (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) in the
Levant, with comments on the phylogeny and systematics of the
genus. Zootaxa 2894: 21–38.
Perera, A., Harris, D.J. (2008): Genetic diversity in the gecko
Tarentola mauritanica within the Iberian Peninsula. Amphibia-
Reptilia 29(4): 583–588.
Rato, C., Carranza, S., Perera, A., Carretero, M.A., Harris, D.J.
(2010): Conflicting patterns of nucleotide diversity between
mtDNA and nDNA in the Moorish gecko, Tarentola mauritanica.
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 56(3): 962–971.
Rato, C., Carranza, S., Harris, D.J. (2011): When selection deceives
phylogeographic interpretation: The case of the Mediterranean
Documenting the introduction of the Moorish gecko, Levant and Port-Cros Islands 811
house gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus (Linnaeus, 1758). Molecular
Phylogenetics and Evolution 58: 365–373.
Rato, C., Carranza, S., Harris, D.J. (2012): Evolutionary history
of the genus Tarentola (Gekkota: Phyllodactylidae) from the
Mediterranean Basin, estimated using multilocus sequence data.
BMC Evolutionary Biology 12: 1–12.
Rato, C. (2015): La salamanquesa común (Tarentola mauritanica)
en la península Ibérica e islas Baleares. Boletín de la Asociación
Herpetológica Española 26: 55–58.
Silva-Rocha, I.R., Salvi, D., Carretero, M.A., Ficetola, G.F. (2019):
Alien reptiles on Mediterranean Islands: A model for invasion
biogeography. Diversity and Distributions 25(6): 995–1005.
Šmíd, J., Carranza, S., Kratochvíl, L., Gvoždík, V., Nasher, A.K.,
Moravec, J. (2013): Out of Arabia: A complex biogeographic
history of multiple vicariance and dispersal events in the gecko
genus Hemidactylus (Reptilia: Gekkonidae). PLoS ONE 8(5):
e64018.
Strachinis, I., Pafilis, P. (2018): First record of Tarentola
mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758) from Athens, Greece. Herpetozoa
31(1/2): 98–99.
Grégory Deso et al.
812
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. ...
Article
Full-text available
Alborán is a small volcanic island located in the center of the Alborán Sea, W Mediterranean, 85km from the Iberian Peninsula (Europe) and 55.5km from the NW African coast line. Despite its small size (605x265m), four distinct exotic lizard species have already been reported there, one of them presumably extinct (Saurodactylus mauritanicus). Throughout history, the island has maintained an intermittent human presence, being now permanently occupied by a military detachment connected to the Iberian Peninsula mainly by means of cargo shipments. Hence, this communication between the island and the continent has fuelled human-mediated species introductions. Populations of the geckos Tarentola mauritanica and Hemidactylus turcicus and the most recently reported wall lizard Podarcis vaucheri still remain in the island. Here, we used molecular tools to assess species identity and putative invasion pathways. As expected, results confirm the initial species assignement and indicate southern Iberia as the source area. However, surprisingly, two clades of T. mauritanica were found, the European clade commonly introduced elsewhere, and the Iberian clade, reported here for the first time outside its native distribution. Moreover, the reported southern Iberian lineage of P. vaucheri in Alborán, represents the third case of introduction of this species. This amazing concentration of alien species in such a reduced territory highlights how prone small islands are to be sucessfully invaded, and that these should not be neglected in invasion biology. The effects of these alien reptile species over native taxa are yet unknown, although an impact over several endemic invertebrates cannot be ruled out. As such, regular monitoring should be implemented to prevent they act as hubs for future new introductions.
Article
Full-text available
In this document we present the discovery of a new established population of the Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) in Athens at the regions of Sepolia and Aigaleo. This is the first time the species is reported in mainland Greece, outside its known distribution in the W Peloponnese. As a strongly synanthropic species, the Moorish Gecko must have been introduced in Athens through human activities.
Article
Full-text available
Landscape evolution and terrestrial biodiversity dynamics in Port-Cros National Park (Var, France): What fifty years of adaptative management tells us. The aim of this work is to perform a synthetic analysis of some key elements concerning the terrestrial biodiversity of the Port-Cros National Park (Var, France, North-Western Mediterranean), in relation to ecological dynamics acting on this small island of the Hyères archipelago. Major insular peculiarities related to historical biogeography and to taxonomic assemblages of plants and animals (invertebrates and vertebrates) are discussed. A survey of past human impacts on the environment suggests that local forests of Port-Cros are recent (ca. one century old). An analysis of the current dynamic of the main ecosystems (forests and maquis, open grasslands and low shruby communities, coastal habitats) of the Port-Cros island is summarized and compared to management actions for biodiversity conservation performed by the national park since its establishment in 1963. All together, the data collected from a large body of environmental studies conducted on this preserved territory, allow us to suggest some scientific frameworks for a sustainable management of its biodiversity. The future expansion of the national park surface, redefined to include the three Hyères islands and the coast of the Maures massif, should allow a more integrative approach of conservation biogeography for this hotspot of Mediterranean biodiversity.
Article
Full-text available
Competition over spatial niche utilisation is one of most common competitive interactions between species in sympatry. Moreover, competitive interactions may involve age classes, and can fluctuate temporally. Consequently, evasive strategies that enable co-existence are likely to be important in the evolution of species assemblages. Here we investigate a system of two co-existing species of temperate geckos with similar ecologies (the house gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus and the wall gecko, Tarentola mauritanica), providing an opportunity to study the effect of species interactions. Juveniles and adults of both species were investigated throughout their daily and annual cycle to explore the effect of inter- and intra-specific interactions on microhabitat use. The two species showed differences in habitat use for both age classes in sympatry. In sympatry, T. mauritanica uses more open habitats and is more active. In contrast, H. turcicus is found in more closed habitats, closer to the ground and to vegetation cover. In allopatry, H. turcicus was observed in more open habitats, closer to the ground, and to vegetation cover, when compared to the population in sympatry with T. mauritanica. These differences in habitat usage were significant for both age classes. Moreover, there were differences, both in sympatry and in allopatry, between age classes that were dependent on season. In conclusion, the presence of a competitor induces a spatial shift in individuals of both age classes of H. turcicus. Observed plasticity in habitat utilisation in both age classes of H. turcicus is used to argue for the invasive potential of this species.