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Testing the competitive exclusion principle using various niche parameters in a native (Natrix maura) and an introduced (N. tessellata) colubrid

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Despite the increase of animal and plant introductions worldwide and the strong augmentation of the reptile trade, few invasive snake populations have been studied. Dice snakes (Natrix tessellata) were introduced to the shores of Lake Geneva (Switzerland) in the early 1920s, and are now well established. This region of introduction was previously inhabited by Viperine snakes (N. maura). Ever since these two species have been under monitoring (which began in 1996) the Viperine snake population has shown drastic decline. We examine here the possibility of trophic competition by analysing diet composition, prey size and trophic niche overlap. Spatial distribution is also assessed in order to address the question of spatial competitive exclusion. We found very similar diets, and thus a high trophic niche overlap, indicating no partitioning of the trophic resource. No arguments in favour of spatial competitive exclusion were found. Our study suggests that trophic competition may occur between the two natricines and that it may give an explanation for the drastic decline of the Viperine snake in this area. Other pathways potentially playing a role in the exclusion of the Viperine snake are discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Biophore, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland;, Email:; 2: Department of Environmental Sciences, Section of Conservation Biology, University of Basel, St-Johanns-Vorstadt 10, 4056 Basel, Switzerland; 3: Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Biophore, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland


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