U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



M. Rockwell Parker http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0923-3911

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Richard SA, Bukovich IMG, Tillman EA, Jayamohan S, Humphrey JS, Carrington PE, et al. (2020) Conspecific chemical cues facilitate mate trailing by invasive Argentine black and white tegus. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0236660.

https://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0236660


The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.


Squamate reptiles (snakes and lizards) rely on chemical cues from conspecifics to search the environment for potential mates. How such cues are used by invasive species to facilitate reproduction, especially seasonally, is a key question that can inform management practices. The Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae) is an invasive reptile species in south Florida threatening native fauna in biodiverse regions such as Everglades National Park. While some information exists on the reproductive ecology of this species in its native range in South America, the chemical ecology of S. merianae is unclear especially in its invasive range. By testing both male (n = 7) and female (n = 7) tegus in a Y-maze apparatus, we assessed if either sex follows chemical trails left by conspecifics and if behaviors were sex- or season-specific. We conducted three types of trials where conspecifics created odor trails: Male-only (male scent only in base and one arm of Y), Female-only, and Male vs. female. Males did not preferentially follow scent trails from either sex, but they did differentially investigate conspecific scent from both sexes. Seasonally, males showed increased rates of chemosensory sampling (rates of tongue-flicking) during the spring (breeding season; March-May) compared to fall (non-breeding season; September-November). Males also had reduced turning and pausing behavior while trailing in the spring. Female tegus exhibited stronger conspecific trailing abilities than males, following both male and female scent trails, and they explored the maze less before making an arm choice. Females also investigated the scent trails intensely compared to males (more passes in scented arms, more time with scent trails). Our results demonstrate for the first time that females of an invasive reptile species can follow conspecific scent trails. Given the strong female responses to odor, sex-specific targeting of tegus via application of a conspecific chemical cue in traps could enhance removal rates of females during the breeding season.