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Tarentola annularis (white-spotted wall gecko)

March 1, 2021

USA: CALIFORNIA: Orange Co.: San Juan Capistrano (33.51°N,117.66°W; WGS 84). 25 August 2020. Samuel Fisher, Chelsea Martin, Robert Fisher. Verified by Gregory B. Pauly. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (LACM 191974). New county record. One juvenile (33 mm SVL) was collected, and another juvenile was seen 40 m away. Another juvenile was also observed during a second visit to the site on 19 September 2020. Wall geckos were first documented at this site since at least 2019 by Gary Nafis (G. Nafis, pers. comm. and as posted on www.californiaherps.com; 23 Aug 2020). Given that multiple individuals were observed at this site over 2 mo, this appears to be an established population. Invasive T. annularis were first detected in California in Redlands, San Bernardino County in the early 2000s (Wilcox et al. 2014. Herpetol. Rev. 45:464). This new Orange County population is ca. 80 km SW of the other known California population. While T. annularis has not spread much in the downtown urban center in Redlands over the last 20 years (S. Fisher, unpubl. data), it is possible it might expand its range more rapidly in a less urbanized habitat if there were more landscaping and natural features present. The only other published records for North America are from Florida where they are also invasive, and they have been known since the 1990s from several locations and continued to spread (Krysko et al. 2016. IRCF Rept. Amphib. 23:110-143). In the native range of T. annularis their habitat consists of desert, indicating that even though they are able to breed and persist in coastal Orange County they may not be in the optimal habitat (Ibrahim 2004. Zool. Middle East 31:23–38). A potential concern is that if T. annularis becomes more widespread in Southern California, they could present a risk to endemic nocturnal rock-dwelling species such as Xantusia henshawi and Phyllodactylus nocticolus because T. annularis has been shown to engage in saurophagy (Ibrahim 2004, op. cit.). It is much larger than these species (Xantusia henshawi SVL = 70 mm; Phyllodactylus nocticolus SVL = 63 mm; Tarentola SVL = 108 mm) and well adapted to desert habitats where it could be a potential predator or competitor.

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