Factors regulating the invasion of two Mediterranean anurans. The role of niche conservatism, species interaction and habitat selection

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Amphibians are a group in worldwide decline. The factors that are causing this decline are not well known, but could be multifactorial, related to the recent expansion of pathogens and habitat disturbance. One of these factors related to the loss of habitat quality is the introduction of alien species. These species can compete with or prey on species of the recipient community, producing deep changes in the structure of these communities. For this reason it is a priority to know which factors act by facilitating the invasion process and which species could be more affected by the presence of this alien species. In Catalonia has become established an alien frog, the painted frog. Introduced in the extreme south of France in the early XXth century, this species has expanded gradually, reaching the Llobregat delta to the south and Llanguedoc to the north. This region is rich in native species of amphibians, some of them endemic, and therefore it is necessary to know how this newcomer species interacts with each of these species. We have used a novel approach when analyzing these interactions, applying the theory of morphospaces. The morphospace is the range of morphological variation observed within a community. This morphology is correlated with the use of a niche, and hence the morphological similarities between the invasive and native species serve as a proxy to assess the functional overlap. These analogies in morphospace were evaluated also in the area of native species and among other species of Discoglossus. The question asked is "Does the invasive species occupy a vacant niche, maintaining a similar morphological gap than that observed in the source assemblage and in the case of other species of the genus Discoglossus?”. ​
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