Invasive black spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura similis) on Gasparilla Island, Florida, USA

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Abstract

The native range of Ctenosaura similis extends from southern Mexico through Panama. From an initial introduction of 3 animals in 1979, the species now numbers in the thousands on Gasparilla Island in southwest Florida. In response to complaints of property damage from residents and threats to native species, local officials and the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services began a removal program in 2008. Through 2011, trappers removed 9467 ctenosaurs. The number removed declined from 32 iguanas/day in 2008 to 1.9 iguanas/day in 2011 despite no easing of the control effort. We necropsied 2757 ctenosaurs to document aspects of their natural history. Females outnumbered males overall, although the largest size class (>300 mm snout–vent length) included 32 males and just 2 females. Reproduction was seasonal. We found oviducal eggs in females from early Apr to early Jun, approximately 2 months later than C. similis in its native range. We trapped hatchlings from late Jul to early Oct coincident with the summer rainy season. Clutch size increased with female body size, with 62 being the largest clutch size recorded. In general, the biology of the invasive population on Gasparilla Island resembles native C. similis populations in Central America, except for the lack of large individuals. We suggest that shorter day length and colder temperatures create environmental conditions that are suboptimal for individual growth compared to those in the native range.

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