Range eclipse leads to tenuous survival of a rare lizard species on a barrier atoll

Oryx
By: , and 

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Abstract

Rediscovery of living populations of a species that was presumed to be extirpated can generate new narratives for conservation in areas suffering from losses in biodiversity. We used field observations and DNA sequence data to verify the rediscovery of the Critically Endangered scincid lizard Emoia slevini on Dåno′, an islet off the coast of Guam in the southern Mariana Islands, where for > 20 years it had been considered possibly extirpated. Endemic to the Marianas, E. slevini has declined throughout its range and no longer occurs on as many as five islands from which it was historically known, most likely because of interactions with invasive species and loss of native forest. Our results show that individuals from Dåno′, the type locality for E. slevini, are genetically similar but not identical to E. slevini on Sarigan and Alamagan to the north, and that E. slevini is a close evolutionary relative to another congener in the southern Marianas that is currently recognized as Emoia atrocostata but probably represents an undescribed species in this archipelago. We also show that other, more broadly distributed species of Emoia occurring on Dåno′ are distant relatives to E. slevini and the Mariana lineage of E. atrocostata, providing further evidence of the distinctiveness of these taxa. The rediscovery of E. slevini on Dåno′ following rodent eradication and culling of a population of monitor lizards suggests that management of invasive species is key to the recovery of this skink in the Mariana Islands, and that a range eclipse on the larger neighbouring island of Guam best explains why the rediscovery took place at the periphery of the species’ historic range. A Chamorro abstract can be found in the supplementary material.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Range eclipse leads to tenuous survival of a rare lizard species on a barrier atoll
Series title Oryx
DOI 10.1017/S0030605320001404
Edition Online First
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center, Pacific Islands Ecosys Research Center
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