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Does the exotic invader turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans, compete for food with coexisting native turtles?

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Nowadays, established populations of exotic turtles, Trachemys scripta elegans, coexist with native turtles in the wild in southern Spain. We analysed the diet of this exotic species and compared it with the diet of the two native species (Mauremys leprosa and Emys orbicularis) in two ponds. The exotic turtle is an opportunistic omnivore. In one of our study ponds where exotic invasive crayfish were very abundant, adult and juvenile exotic turtles fed mainly on this prey. In the other study pond, juveniles fed mainly on animal matter and adults ate similar proportions of plants and animals. Native turtles also ingested mainly crayfish in the first study pond, but M. leprosa were mainly herbivorous in the second pond. We did not detect strong differences among the diets of the three species. While native species significantly differ in their diets, the exotic turtles did not differ from some groups of native ones. Exotic turtles had the widest range of food, overlapping the food spectra of different age groups of the two native species in both localities. Comparing with previous reports on native turtles diet of the same area, our results did not reveal changes in the diet which could be associated to interactions with exotic turtles, but the observed shift to a higher proportion of animals in the diet in one of the ponds were mainly due to the high abundance of exotic crayfish.

Affiliations: 1: Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC), P.O. Box 1056, 41080 Sevilla, Spain; 2: Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC), P.O. Box 1056, 41080 Sevilla, Spain;, Email:


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