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Individual heterogeneity influences the effects of translocation on urban dispersal of an invasive reptile

January 15, 2022

Invasive reptiles pose a serious threat to global biodiversity, but early detection of individuals in an incipient population is often hindered by their cryptic nature, sporadic movements, and variation among individuals. Little is known about the mechanisms that affect the movement of these species, which limits our understanding of their dispersal. Our aim was to determine whether translocation or small-scale landscape features affect movement patterns of brown treesnakes (Boiga irregularis), a destructive invasive predator on the island of Guam.

We conducted a field experiment to compare the movements of resident (control) snakes to those of snakes translocated from forests and urban areas into new urban habitats. We developed a Bayesian hierarchical model to analyze snake movement mechanisms and account for attributes unique to invasive reptiles by incorporating multiple behavioral states and individual heterogeneity in movement parameters.

We did not observe strong differences in mechanistic movement parameters (turning angle or step length) among experimental treatment groups. We found some evidence that translocated snakes from both forests and urban areas made longer movements than resident snakes, but variation among individuals within treatment groups weakened this effect. Snakes translocated from forests moved more frequently from pavement than those translocated from urban areas. Snakes translocated from urban areas moved less frequently from buildings than resident snakes. Resident snakes had high individual heterogeneity in movement probability.

Our approach to modeling movement improved our understanding of invasive reptile dispersal by allowing us to examine the mechanisms that influence their movement. We also demonstrated the importance of accounting for individual heterogeneity in population-level analyses, especially when management goals involve eradication of an invasive species.

Publication Year 2022
Title Individual heterogeneity influences the effects of translocation on urban dispersal of an invasive reptile
DOI 10.1186/s40462-022-00300-1
Authors Abigail B. Fueka, Melia G. Nafus, Amy A. Yackel Adams, Larissa L. Bailey, Mevin B. Hooten
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Movement Ecology
Index ID 70227815
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center