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Population density in Podarcis lilfordi (Squamata, Lacertidae), a lizard species endemic to small islets in the Balearic Islands (Spain)

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The Balearic lizard, Podarcis lilfordi, is present in 43 insular populations in the Cabrera archipelago and around the coasts of Mallorca and Menorca islands (Spain). We studied lizard densities over the entire range of distribution, analyzing observed differences of density in relation to island area, habitat diversity, availability of resources, presence of predators, competitors and human disturbances. The density of the Balearic lizard varies from less than 35 to almost 8000 lizards ha–1, with an average of around 1500 lizards ha–1. In some very small islets we detected no more than 10 individuals. Using a subsample of nine coastal islets (Menorca) we did not find any significant correlation between ground arthropod biomass and lizard density. The combination of island area and its maximal altitude, its so-called biotic capacity, was also uncorrelated with lizard density. In addition, neither degree of island accessibility nor presence/absence of seagull breeding colonies, were able to explain lizard densities.

Islands without ship rats (Rattus rattus) showed a significantly higher lizard density, but islands in which rat eradication programs were launched during the study period, showed lower densities than those with rats but no eradication actions. Genetic variability was significantly higher on bigger lizard populations, lacking a correlation with lizard densities. No single independent variable can explain density differences among populations under study. Our results are discussed in the light of available hypotheses on factors affecting population densities.

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Biología Animal, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain;, Email:; 2: Departamento de Biología Animal, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain; 3: Departament de Biologia, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Mallorca, Spain; 4: Departamento de Estadística, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain; 5: School of Biological and Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK


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