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DNA metabarcoding reveals introduced species predominate in the diet of a threatened endemic omnivore, Telfair’s skink (Leiolopisma telfairii)

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jordan CuffORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Introduced species can exert disproportionately negative effects on island ecosystems, but their potential role as food for native consumers is poorly studied. Telfair's skinks are endemic omnivores living on Round Island, Mauritius, a globally significant site of biodiversity conservation. We aimed to determine the dietary diversity and key trophic interactions of Telfair's skinks, whether introduced species are frequently consumed, and if diet composition changes seasonally between male and female skinks. We used DNA metabarcoding of skink fecal samples to identify animals (COI) and plants (ITS2) consumed by skinks. There were 389 dietary presence counts belonging to 77 dietary taxa found across the 73 Telfair's skink fecal samples. Introduced taxa were cumulatively consumed more frequently than other categories, accounting for 49.4% of all detections, compared to cryptogenic (20.6%), native (20.6%), and endemic taxa (9.5%). The most frequently consumed introduced species was the ant, Pheidole megacephala, present in 40% of samples. Blue latan palm, Latania loddigesii, was the most frequently consumed endemic species, present in 33% of samples but was only detected in the dry season, when fruits are produced. We found a strong seasonal difference in diet composition explained by the presence of certain plant species solely or primarily in one season and a marked increase in the consumption of animal prey in the dry season. Male and female skinks consumed several taxa at different frequencies. These results present a valuable perspective on the role of introduced species in the trophic network of their invaded ecosystem. Both native and introduced species provide nutritional resources for skinks, and this may have management implications in the context of species conservation and island restoration.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tercel MPTG, Moorhouse-Gann RJ, Cuff JP, Drake LE, Cole NC, Goder M, Mootoocurpen R, Symondson WOC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ecology and Evolution

Year: 2022

Volume: 12

Issue: 1

Print publication date: 01/01/2022

Online publication date: 21/12/2021

Acceptance date: 03/09/2021

Date deposited: 22/12/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2045-7758

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


DOI: 10.1002/ece3.8484


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