Among the extant populations of the critically endangered Aeolian wall lizard, the most vulnerable is the one surviving on La Canna, a columnar volcanic stack off the Filicudi Island. Here, I report the results of the first climbing expedition by a biologist on La Canna, that contributed direct observations and updated information on the size, morphology, and genetic variability of this population. Lizard density at the sampling site (a small terrace at 50 m of elevation) was 1.7 m−2, twice of a previous estimate. Standard methods for estimating population size are unsuitable for La Canna. An educated guess of about a hundred individuals can be drawn, considering the extent of habitat available on the stack and the number of observed lizards. Lizards on La Canna were not fearless, despite what was reported by alpinists, possibly because of aggressive intraspecific interactions or high environmental temperatures during sampling. Biometric data significantly extend the body size of La Canna’s lizards and indicate that it is not smaller than other P. raffonei populations. A complete lack of genetic diversity was found at the mitochondrial nd4 gene, in line with previous allozyme data and with estimates on other microinsular Podarcis populations. The small size of the La Canna population implies severe genetic drift and an extremely high level of inbreeding, as supported by low heterozygosity found across the genome. Detrimental effects of inbreeding depression are evident as cephalic malformations observed in all captured lizards of La Canna and might represent the more immediate threat to the persistence of this population.

Climbing on the La Canna Volcanic Sea Stack to Obtain First-Hand Data on the Tiniest Population of the Critically Endangered Aeolian Wall Lizard Podarcis raffonei

Salvi D.
2023-01-01

Abstract

Among the extant populations of the critically endangered Aeolian wall lizard, the most vulnerable is the one surviving on La Canna, a columnar volcanic stack off the Filicudi Island. Here, I report the results of the first climbing expedition by a biologist on La Canna, that contributed direct observations and updated information on the size, morphology, and genetic variability of this population. Lizard density at the sampling site (a small terrace at 50 m of elevation) was 1.7 m−2, twice of a previous estimate. Standard methods for estimating population size are unsuitable for La Canna. An educated guess of about a hundred individuals can be drawn, considering the extent of habitat available on the stack and the number of observed lizards. Lizards on La Canna were not fearless, despite what was reported by alpinists, possibly because of aggressive intraspecific interactions or high environmental temperatures during sampling. Biometric data significantly extend the body size of La Canna’s lizards and indicate that it is not smaller than other P. raffonei populations. A complete lack of genetic diversity was found at the mitochondrial nd4 gene, in line with previous allozyme data and with estimates on other microinsular Podarcis populations. The small size of the La Canna population implies severe genetic drift and an extremely high level of inbreeding, as supported by low heterozygosity found across the genome. Detrimental effects of inbreeding depression are evident as cephalic malformations observed in all captured lizards of La Canna and might represent the more immediate threat to the persistence of this population.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11697/227542
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