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Establishment of introduced reptiles increases with the presence and richness of native congeners

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Darwin proposed two contradictory hypotheses to explain the influence of congeners on the outcomes of invasion: the naturalization hypothesis, which predicts a negative relationship between the presence of congeners and invasion success, and the pre-adaptation hypothesis, which predicts a positive relationship between the presence of congeners and invasion success. Studies testing these hypotheses have shown mixed support. We tested these hypotheses using the establishment success of non-native reptiles and congener presence/absence and richness across the globe. Our results demonstrated support for the pre-adaptation hypothesis. We found that globally, both on islands and continents, establishment success was higher in the presence than in the absence of congeners and that establishment success increased with increasing congener richness. At the life form level, establishment success was higher for lizards, marginally higher for snakes, and not different for turtles in the presence of congeners; data were insufficient to test the hypotheses for crocodiles. There was no relationship between establishment success and congener richness for any life form. We suggest that we found support for the pre-adaptation hypothesis because, at the scale of our analysis, native congeners represent environmental conditions appropriate for the species rather than competition for niche space. Our results imply that areas to target for early detection of non-native reptiles are those that host closely related species.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Wildland Resources and the Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, 84322-5230, USA


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