The invasion and potential impact of the Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) in Australia

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Abstract

Hemidactylus frenatus is an Asian gecko that has spread pantropically to become one the world's most widespread reptiles. It has been established in Australia for approximately 50 years, but the last two decades have seen massive range expansion across settled areas of northern and eastern Australia; and this spread continues at pace. Disturbingly, H. frenatus is increasingly being detected in natural habitats in Australia, in some cases at high densities. Despite rampant spread, there has been little concern regarding the potential impact of this species on native geckos or natural systems more broadly. This is surprising given that Australia is a centre of gecko origin and diversity, and that H. frenatus has had well documented detrimental impacts on geckos in other parts of its introduced range. Here I review the biology and global distribution of H. frenatus, plot its spread in Australia over the five decades since establishment, and review the research on invasive populations of this species overseas and in Australia to assess potential impacts. I argue that Australia should be more concerned about H. Frenatus because: (i) it is spreading rapidly across northern, eastern and central Australia; (ii) it can invade natural habitats; (iii) it is a very strong competitor and may out-compete Australian geckos in some situations; and (iv) it carries novel parasites that may impact native reptile species. Hemidactylus frenatus is here to stay and represents a potential threat to Australia's diversity and ecology. A key question is the degree to which it will invade natural habitats and what its impacts will be in these. Research is required to assess the current and potential impacts of H. frenatus in Australia so as to determine how these can be managed and the level of investment warranted.

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