Illegal aliens: predicting risk of pet snake invasions in Brazil

Study of Brazilian pet snakes identifies species and areas at highest risk for invasion and establishment

Data resources used via GBIF : 2,723 species occurrences
Pantherophis guttatus
Eastern corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) by John Carlson via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

The introduction of non-native species can be detrimental to both environment and wildlife. Exotic pets living far away from their natural habitats may escape and cause havoc if allowed to naturalize. Prevention of alien invasion requires identifying potential invaders before it’s too late.

Focusing on pet snakes in Brazil, a new study evaluates the invasion risk of five exotic species known to be traded illegally in the country–Lampropeltis getula, Lampropeltis triangulum, Pantherophis guttatus, Python regius, and Python bivittatus–all with records of being invasive in other countries.

Using GBIF-mediated occurrences and WorldClim environmental variables, authors modelled the potential distribution of each of the five species. From a generated consensus map, the authors identified the most suitable areas in Northern and Midwestern regions of Brazil–including the Cerrado and the Amazon–both areas important to Brazilian biodiversity.

Combining this with a herpetofaunal model scoring establishment risks and specific attributes required for successful invasion, the author point to P. guttatus and P. bivittatus as having the highest risk of establishment, concluding that these should the focus of control and monitoring.

Link to original article

Fonseca É, Solé M, Rödder D and de Marco P (2017) Pet snakes illegally marketed in Brazil: Climatic viability and establishment risk. PLOS ONE. Public Library of Science (PLoS) 12(8): e0183143. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183143.

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