Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Getting ahead: exploitative competition by an invasive lizard.

Abstract

Biological invasions are a contemporary global threat because invasive species can have substantial negative economic and ecological impacts. Invasive species can outcompete native species through two main mechanisms: interference competition (direct, negative interactions like aggression) and/or exploitative competition (indirect, negative interactions resulting from species using the same, limited resources like food). The invasive Italian wall lizard (Podarcis siculus) was introduced into Lisbon, Portugal, 20 years ago, and is believed to be locally displacing the native green Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis virescens). We experimentally tested for competition between these two lizard species by establishing heterospecific (one pair of each species) and conspecific (two pairs of the same species; control) treatments in enclosures containing a high- and a low-quality refuge. Lizards were fed from food dishes every other day. We tested if species showed interference (aggressive behaviour, stealing food and shelter exclusion) or exploitative competition (tolerance between species but differences in food consumption efficiency). We found evidence for exploitative competition: the invasive species arrived first at food stations, consumed more food and gained more weight than the native species. We suggest that exploitative competition may, in part, explain the observed displacement of P. virescens from contact areas with the invasive P. siculus. Deciphering the competitive mechanisms between invasive and native species is vital for understanding the invasion process.