Genetic reconstruction of the invasion history of anolis wattsi in trinidad with a comment on the importance of ecological similarity to invasion success

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Human activities have reshaped patterns of island biogeography for many groups of amphibians and reptiles. In Trinidad, an island in the West Indies with only one native Anolis lizard species, four additional anole species have been introduced since the 1800s. The most recent introduction, Anolis wattsi, native to Antigua, has become established despite the presence of multiple species of resident anoles. We used genetic data (mitochondrial DNA) to infer the geographic origin and genetic structure of introduced A. wattsi on Trinidad. We then gathered published data to compare eco-morphological traits of all anole species currently established on the island. We found three mtDNA haplotypes in Trinidad that clustered with two different clades from the northern part of the native range in Antigua, rejecting the hypothesis that the lizards originated in the pineapple-growing region of the south. However, a lack of fine-scale population structure precluded precise identification of the origin in Antigua of haplotypes introduced to Trinidad. Compared to the other anole species on Trinidad, A. wattsi is smaller, perches lower, and has a higher field body temperature. Thus, the successful establishment and spread of A. wattsi should not be surprising given the success of two previous introductions of anole species that were more similar ecomorphologically to the native species and each other, and the fact that Trinidad has relatively few anole species for its size.

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Herpetological Journal