Saving geckos and plants on Mauritius

Blue-tailed day geckoFrom Mongabay:

Neon green gecko key to preventing Mauritian plant extinction

April 17th, 2007

A vibrantly colored gecko plays a key role in a highly threatened ecological community in Mauritius, reports new research published in American Naturalist.

Studying plant-animal interactions in Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island famous for its extinct dodo bird, researchers found that a rare plant, Trochetia blackburniana, benefits from its proximity to Pandanus plants because they house high densities of geckos responsible for pollination.

The findings, which unusually identify a lizard as a key pollinator, are significant because they provide “valuable management insights for ongoing conservation efforts to save the highly endangered flora of Mauritius.”

The researchers, led by Dennis M. Hansen of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, used a gecko exclusion experiment to determine the importance of the endemic blue-tailed day gecko (Phelsuma cepediana) in pollination of Trochetia blackburniana, a species that is now in decline due to the impact of introduced species and the disappearance of its key pollinator, the olive white-eye (Zosterops chloronothos), a bird, across much of its range.

The authors found that unlike alien invasive wasps and birds that fed on Trochetia blackburniana nectar without collecting pollen, the blue-tailed day gecko was tagged with pollen “either just behind the head or on the gecko’s throat and chest,” making it a crucial pollinator of the plant species.

Hansen and colleagues showed that gecko exclusion had a “highly significant negative effect” on fruiting of Trochetia blackburniana.

See also here.

Improving the efficiency of rat control is vital to protect the critically endangered Mauritius Olive White-eye (Zosterops chloronothos) and sustain its population in the Black River Gorges National Park. In line with BirdLife International’s global conservation strategy to Save Species, BirdLife’s Partner in Mauritius, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has introduced the use of self-resetting traps to preserve the highly endangered bird endemic to Mauritius: here.

5 thoughts on “Saving geckos and plants on Mauritius

  1. Mauritius turns wildlife clock back 400 years
    Wed Apr 18, 2007 3:31AM EDT

    By Ed Harris

    ILE AUX AIGRETTES, Mauritius (Reuters) – Giant tortoises doze in the shade as rare lizards slip under bushes and endangered birds chatter in the sunlit trees overhead.

    On a small wooded island off southern Mauritius, environmentalists are trying to turn back time to an era before humans ever set foot on the volcanic Indian Ocean archipelago.

    “We want to turn the clock back 400 years,” says Ashok Khadun, a conservation expert with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), a local non-governmental organization.

    Sadly, they are too late to help the Mauritius giant skink — a type of large grey lizard — its broad-billed parrot, scops owl or lesser flying fox, and many other species now extinct.

    Separate from the continents since it emerged from the seas some eight million years ago, the island developed hundreds of unique species of flora and fauna that evolved in isolation.

    But the arrival of Europeans led by the Portuguese in the 16th century triggered an ecological disaster with the slashing of forest habitats and the introduction of predators like rats.

    By far the most famous victim was the flightless dodo bird, which is believed to have died out in the late 1600s.


  2. Pingback: Dodo skeleton discovered in Mauritius | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Madagascar’s first human inhabitants | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: New unique Madagascar lizard discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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