Trade and stowaways: Molecular evidence for human-mediated translocation of eastern skinks into the western Mediterranean

Josep Francesc Bisbal-Chinesta, Karin Tamar, Ángel Gálvez, Luís Albero, Pablo Vicent-CastellÃ, Laura Martín-Burgos, Miguel Alonso, Rubén Sánchez, Carlos Ortega, Antonio Gómez, David Candel, Miguel Cervera, Salvador Carranza, Hugues Alexandre Blain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human movements in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea have caused a great impact in the composition of terrestrial fauna due to the introductions of several allochthonous species, intentionally or not. Reptiles are one of the groups where this anthropic impact is most evident, owing to the extensive intra-Mediterranean dispersals of recent chronologies. Chalcides ocellatus is a widespread skink with a natural distribution that covers almost the entire Mediterranean Basin. Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain its origin: Natural dispersions and human translocations. Previous molecular data suggest the occurrence of a recent dispersal phenomenon across the Mediterranean Sea. In this study we present the first record of this species in the Iberian Peninsula, in Serra del Molar (South-east Spain). We combined molecular analyses and archaeological records to study the origin of this population. The molecular results indicate that the population is phylogenetically closely related to specimens from north-eastern Egypt and southern Red Sea. We suggest that the species arrived at the Iberian Peninsula most likely through human-mediated dispersal by using the trade routes. Between the Iron to Middle Ages, even now, the region surrounding Serra del Molar has been the destination of human groups and commercial goods of Egyptian origins, in which Chalcides ocellatus could have arrived as stowaways. The regional geomorphological evolution would have restricted its expansion out of Serra del Molar. These findings provide new data about the impact of human movements on faunal introductions and present new information relating to mechanisms of long-distance translocations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
JournalAmphibia - Reptilia
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Chalcides ocellatus
  • DNA
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Spain
  • introduction
  • reptiles
  • species dispersal

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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