Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Calling behaviour in the invasive Asian house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) and implications for early detection.

Abstract

Context. Acoustic communication is common in some animal groups, with an underlying function typically associated with mating or territoriality. Resolving the function of calls is valuable both in terms of understanding the fundamental biology of the species and, potentially, for applied reasons such as detection. Early detection is a key step in exclusion and eradication of invasive species, and calling behaviour can be used in this regard. The Asian house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) is one of a minority of lizards that uses acoustic communication. However, despite how conspicuous the call is, its function remains poorly resolved. It is also one of the world's most invasive species, with exclusion via early detection being the key form of control. Aims. The aim was to resolve calling patterns and underlying function of the loud, multiple-chirp call ('chik, chik, chik...') in H. frenatus, in the context of using the results for developing effective methods for detection of new and establishing populations. Methods. The calls of wild H. frenatus were recorded to assess peaks in calling activity. Also, laboratory experiments were performed to determine which individuals call, what causes them to call and the degree of call variation among individuals. Key results. Assessment of calling behaviour in the wild revealed greater calling activity in warmer months, and five- to 10-fold peaks in calling activity at sunset and 30 min before sunrise. Laboratory experiments revealed that calls were uttered exclusively by males and primarily by adults (although juveniles can call). Males called more when they were paired with females as opposed to other males. Calls differed among geckos, including the expected negative correlation between dominant frequency and body size. Conclusions. The results suggest that the multiple-chirp call functions as a territory or sexual broadcast by males, perhaps containing information such as body size.