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Effects of Widespread Fish Introductions on Paedomorphic Newts in Europe

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Abstract: 

As a result of factors such as global warming, habitat destruction, and species introduction, amphibians are declining worldwide. No one, however, has analyzed the status of polymorphic amphibian species at a national or continental scale, although some local reports exist. Our aim was to report on the loss of intraspecific heterochrony as a loss to diversity in determining the consequences of fish stocking on European populations of paedomorphic newts. Paedomorphosis is a polymorphism in which larval traits are retained in the adult stage. We surveyed 39 paedomorphic populations of the alpine ( Triturus alpestris) and palmate (T. helveticus) newts, all but one of which initially occupied fishless ponds and lakes in France, Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Greece. Exotic fishes were found in 44% of the studied aquatic habitats, with a 100% presence in Montenegro. At all sites paedomorphs disappeared and metamorphs declined. Only fish explained these population changes because alternative factors such as drying were not significant. More catastrophically, fish introductions occurred in habitats known to support the largest populations of newts and even some endemic subspecies. If management and legislative measures are not taken to stop fish stocking, protect paedomorphs as conservation units at national and international levels, and restore natural habitats, all the largest paedomorphic populations may disappear in the near future. Their disappearance would represent a loss of one of the rare, fascinating examples of intraspecific heterochrony.
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Keywords: declinación global de anfibios; extinción; extinction; fish introduction; global amphibian decline; introducción de peces; paedomorphosis; pedomórfosis; polimorfismo; polymorphism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Chargé de Recherches FNRS, Laboratory of Fish and Amphibian Ethology, Behavioural Biology Unit, Department of Life Sciences, University of Liège, 22 Quai Van Beneden, 4020 Liège, Belgium, Email: [email protected] 2: Institute for Biological Research, 29 Novembra 1942, 11000 Beograd, Serbia and Montenegro

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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