Unusual population attributes of invasive red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) in Japan: do they have a performance advantage?

Aquatic Invasions
By: , and 

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Abstract

The slider turtle (Trachemys scripta Thunberg in Schoepff, 1792) is native to the USA and Mexico. Due to the popularity of their colorful hatchlings as pets, they have been exported worldwide and are now present on all continents, except Antarctica. Slider turtles are well-established in Japan and occupy aquatic habitats in urban and agricultural areas, to the detriment of native turtles with which they compete. We asked the overall question, do slider turtles in Japan have a performance advantage because they are liberated from the numerous competing turtle species in their native range and released from many of their natural predators? Traits compared included various measures of adult body size (mean, maximum), female size at maturity as measured by size of gravid females, clutch size, population density and biomass, sex ratio, and sexual size dimorphism, the latter two a partial reflection of growth and maturity differences between the sexes. We sampled slider turtle populations in three habitats in Japan and compared population attributes with published data for the species from throughout its native range in the USA. Mean male body sizes were at the lower end of values from the USA suggesting that males in Japan may mature at smaller body sizes. The smallest gravid females in Japan mature at smaller body sizes but have mean clutch sizes larger than some populations in the USA. Compared to most populations in the USA, slider turtles achieve higher densities and biomasses in Japanese wetlands, especially the lotic system we sampled. Sex ratios were female-biased, the opposite of what is reported for many populations in protected areas of the USA. Sexual size dimorphism was enhanced relative to native populations with females as the larger sex. The enhanced dimorphism is likely a result of earlier size of maturity in Japanese males and the large size of mature (gravid) Japanese females. Slider turtles appear to have a performance advantage over native turtles in Japan, possibly as a result of being released from competition with numerous sympatric turtle species in their native range, and the absence of many co-evolved predators and parasites in Japan. This slight competitive edge, coupled with the catholic diet and broad tolerance of varying aquatic habitats of slider turtles, is reflected in their dominance over native and naturalized Japanese turtles in altered aquatic habitats.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Unusual population attributes of invasive red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) in Japan: do they have a performance advantage?
Series title Aquatic Invasions
DOI 10.3391/ai.2017.12.1.10
Volume 12
Issue 1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Regional Euro-Asian Biological Invasions Centre
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 97
Last page 108