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


Date of this Version



PLoS One (October 31, 2023) 18(10): e0293591

doi: 10.1371/journal. pone.0293591

Editor: Daniel de Paiva Silva, Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciênciae Tecnologia Goiano- Campus Urutaí, Brazil


United States government work


License: Creative Commons public domain dedication (CC0)


Locating potential mates in non-native habitats is one of the most important challenges faced by invasive vertebrate species. The Argentine black and white tegu lizard (Salvator merianae) is a major invasive reptile species in the contiguous United States and is rapidly expanding its range across Florida and the Southeast, in part due to inadequate management strategies and tools. Because a wide array of reptiles, especially squamates (snakes and lizards), have been well-studied for their reliance on chemical cues to locate conspecifics, our project aimed to isolate chemical cues from tegus and assess the ability of adult males and females to use only these cues to make navigation decisions within a Y-maze. Previously, we found that both males and females can follow conspecific scent trails, but the nature of the specific cues used by the tegus was unknown. In this study, we extracted skin lipids from male and female shed skins acquired during the breeding season then tested the extracts for bioactivity at different dilutions prior to Y-maze trials. Both sexes showed positive reactions (e.g., tongue-flicking, nose taps, scratching) to 2:1 skin lipid:hexane dilutions. In the Y-maze, males (n = 7) and females (n = 7) were run in three types of trailing scenarios with these skin lipid extracts: Male-only (pooled lipid extracts from male shed skins), Female-only (extracts from female shed skins), and Male vs. female. Regardless of the tegu lipid type present, tegus preferred to follow the conspecific lipid trail when paired with a neutral control (peanut oil; 2:1 dilution). They also preferred opposite-sex skin lipid trails when paired with same-sex skin lipid trails. We analyzed our results further by comparing them to those of Richard, Bukovich, et al. (2020). We found a synchronization effect of the skin lipids: sex differences in behavior detectable in the scent trail trials were absent when only conspecific skin lipids were present in the environment. Our results indicate that skin lipids alone are sufficient to facilitate mate tracking in S. merianae, these chemical cues induce reliable behavior, and extracted skin lipids have potential for modifying movement patterns of an invasive reptile in their non-native range. If leveraged in concert with current tegu management strategies (that is, trapping), extracted skin lipids have the potential to bolster management efficacy but field trials are a requisite next step.

pone.0293591.s001.pdf (394 kB)

pone.0293591.s002.mp4 (24303 kB)
S2 Examples of tegu behaviors measured in the Y-maze MP4

pone.0293591.s003.pdf (322 kB)

pone.0293591.s004.pdf (298 kB)

pone.0293591.s005.pdf (317 kB)

pone.0293591.s006.pdf (131 kB)
S6 data PDF

pone.0293591.s006.xlsx (21 kB)
S6 data XLSX