Reproductive habitat selection in alien and native populations of the genus Discoglossus

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The existence of suitable breeding habitats is an important factor explaining the regional presence of an anuran species. This study examined patterns of habitat selection in populations of three species of the genus Discoglossus: Discoglossus galganoi (south-western Iberian Peninsula), Discoglossus scovazzi (Morocco) and Discoglossus pictus (three different areas were included in the study: Sicily, Tunisia and north-eastern Iberian Peninsula). The populations of D.pictus on the Iberian Peninsula are allochthonous, and analysis of these patterns may provide insights into the processes that regulate the invasion phase. The hypotheses tested were: (i) congeneric species show the same patterns of habitat selection, and alien species have been established following these patterns; (ii) there are differences in species associations between assemblages structured deterministically and by chance, i.e. native versus invaded assemblages. The larval habitats of three species of this genus were characterized by measuring physical and chemical parameters of the water bodies. We examined the covariation between the presence of Discoglossus species and the species richness of sympatric anurans, and investigated a possible relationship between morphological similarity (as a proxy of functional group) and overlap in habitat use. The results showed that congeneric species are morphologically conservative and also select very similar types of aquatic habitat. The alien population and other sympatric species showed a high degree of overlap in habitat use, which was greater than that observed in the native assemblage with a similar functional richness. Species associations were not structured on the basis of morphological similarity in any of the assemblages. Among native populations, the presence of Discoglossus was either negatively correlated or not significantly correlated with species richness. Only the alien population showed a positive correlation between its presence and species richness, which suggests a loss of assemblage structure ​
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