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The yellow-legged gull as a predator of lizards in Balearic Islands

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Lizards and gulls cohabit in several Mediterranean islands. The yellow-legged gull, Larus michahellis, was found to prey several vertebrate species. However, precise information about the interaction between gulls and other vertebrates, particularly with lizards is still scarce. The Balearic lizard, Podarcis lilfordi, shares several coastal islets with the yellow-legged gull. Using two different sources of information, we studied the interaction of both species in Colom Island (Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain). We studied the diet of the yellow-legged gull and learnt that the Balearic lizard is not a common prey of the yellow-legged gull. On the other hand, we studied the potential predation pressure of gulls on lizards, using plasticine models of lizards. We did two different experiments from which we can conclude that yellow-legged gulls rarely attack lizards and, consequently, cannot be considered a major threat for this endemic lizard species, at least in the population under study. Finally, we obtained evidence that plasticine models can only be employed with caution to assess predation pressure of opportunistic scavengers, much as gulls are. The majority of marks on models were not the consequence of true attacks by gulls, but the result of ground exploratory behaviour of gulls in search of any edible matter. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, in the case of the yellow-legged gull, the proportion of marked models would be an indication of ground-based wandering activity, rather than a result of its predation pressure on lizards.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Animal Biology, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain


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