Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Understanding demographic limiting factors to species recovery: nest-site suitability and breeding ecology of Phelsuma guentheri on Round Island, Mauritius.

Abstract

The island of Mauritius in the Mascarenes has already suffered high levels of extinction, and habitat destruction and invasive alien species have pushed many of the remaining endemic species to the brink of extinction. Round Island, a small island northeast of Mauritius, is home to remnant populations of several reptile species that were once distributed across Mauritius. One of the most threatened of these is G√ľnther's gecko Phelsuma guentheri, where despite extensive management efforts, population size remains small and below expectation. We identify determinants of nest-site suitability across Round Island, and examine whether suitable nest sites are a limiting factor for the abundance of P. guentheri. Over one breeding season, we recorded and monitored a high number (269) of nest sites harbouring a total of 1475 eggs. We used the number of eggs at each nest, and the hatching success as proxies for nest-site suitability. To study the reproductive behaviour of P. guentheri, we installed trail cameras at three nest sites. We did not find the expected high frequency of use of hardwood trees as nest sites, as found on Ile aux Aigrettes to the southeast of Mauritius, probably because hardwood trees are still relatively sparse and small on Round Island. Instead, the endemic palm Latania loddigesii was the most used nest sites, harbouring 78.8% of all nests with 56.3% of all eggs. Hatching success was high for palm nest sites (90.6%), rock surfaces (91.8%), and on the endemic screw pine Pandanus vandermeeschii (96%), rates that are similar to that reported from hardwood trees on Ile aux Aigrettes (~90%). Communal nesting occurred on all substrates, with up to five individuals using the same nest site. Egg-laying took place at dusk or at night, lasting around 30 min, whereas hatching occurred mostly during the day, lasting 2-107 min. Females laid eggs every 34 days on average, and produced up to four clutches of 1-2 eggs each within the season. We conclude that P. guentheri does not suffer from nest site limitation on Round Island, and that reproductive success is high in terms of both numbers of eggs laid and hatching success, likely due to ongoing habitat restoration. Further research is needed to investigate the factors inhibiting abundance and distribution of P. guentheri on Round Island.