Results of the First Herpetological Survey of Israel’s Mediterranean Coastal Islets

Alex Slavenko, Erez Maza, Yuval Itescu


Small islets in the Mediterranean Sea are often home to reptiles, typically representing an impoverished sample of the continental fauna, yet with high population densities and signs of rapid morphological and behavioral evolution. In this paper, we present the first herpetofaunal survey of several small islet clusters in close proximity to the Mediterranean coast of Israel, only recently geologically separated from the mainland. We performed surveys of five islets during March of 2017 – 2018 and recorded the presence of five different species of reptiles on four of the surveyed islets. Species richness varied between 1 and 4 species, and appeared to be correlated with island area, with a distinct nested structure. Reptile species may have colonized the islets by natural dispersal from nearby coastal populations, or by hitch-hiking on fishing boats and similar methods of human-assisted dispersal. Alternatively, the recorded reptiles may represent relictual populations from earlier geologic periods, when lower sea-levels supported continuous land-bridges between the islets and the mainland. These insular reptile populations require further study to establish the exact means of colonization and describe if and how they differ from mainland populations. We stress the importance of such small Mediterranean islets such as these as centers of unique biodiversity and encourage future study and conservation action aimed at them and similar islets.


lizards; Lacertidae; Gekkonidae; Scincidae; islands

Full Text:



Arizaga J., Aldalur A., Herrero A., Cuadrado J. F., Díez E., and Crespo A. (2014), «Foraging distances of a resident yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) population in relation to refuse management on a local scale», Eur. J. Wildlife Res., 60(2), 171 – 175.

Bar A. and Haimovitch G. (2011), A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Israel, Pazbar LTD, Herzliya.

Bergamasco A. and Malanotte-Rizzoli P. (2010), «The circulation of the Mediterranean Sea: a historical review of experimental investigations», Adv. Oceanogr. Limnol., 1(1), 11 – 28.

Hsü K. J., Ryan W. B. F., and Cita M. B. (1973), «Late Miocene desiccation of the Mediterranean», Nature, 242(5395), 240 – 244.

Itescu Y., Slavenko A., Schwarz R., Meiri S., and Pafilis P. (2016), «A new island record for Chalcides ocellatus (Forskål, 1775) from Kythnos, Greece», Herpetozoa, 29(1/2), 98 – 100.

Itescu Y., Schwarz R., Donihue C. M., Slavenko A., Roussos S. A., Sagonas K., Valakos E. D., Foufopoulos J., Pafilis P., and Meiri S. (2018), «Inconsistent patterns of body size evolution in co-occurring island reptiles», Global Ecol. Biogeogr., 27(5), 538 – 550.

Kornilios P., Kyriazi P., Poulakakis N., Kumlutaş Y., Ilgaz Ç., Mylonas M., and Lymberakis P. (2010), «Phylogeography of the ocellated skink Chalcides ocellatus (Squamata, Scincidae), with the use of mtDNA sequences: a hitch-hiker’s guide to the Mediterranean», Mol. Phylogen. Evol., 54(2), 445 – 456.

Kotsakiozi P., Jablonski D., Ilgaz Ç., Kumlutaş Y., Avcı A., Meiri S., Itescu Y., Kukushkin O., Gvoždík V., and Scillitani G. (2018), «Multilocus phylogeny and coalescent species delimitation in Kotschy’s gecko, Mediodactylus kotschyi: Hidden diversity and cryptic species», Mol. Phylogen. Evol., 125, 177 – 187.

Li B., Belasen A., Pafilis P., Bednekoff P., and Foufopoulos J. (2014), «Effects of feral cats on the evolution of anti-predator behaviours in island reptiles: insights from an ancient introduction», P. R. Soc. B., 281(1788), 20140339.

Lymberakis P. and Poulakakis N. (2010), «Three continents claiming an archipelago: the evolution of Aegean’s herpetofaunal diversity», Diversity, 2(2), 233 – 255.

Mayrose A., Vine G., Levinger Z., Steinitz O., Hatzofe O., Haviv E., Perlman Y., Alon D., and Leader N. (2017), The Redlist of Israeli Birds, Society for Protection of Nature in Israel & Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, Jerusalem.

Meiri S., Belmaker A., Berkowic D., Kazes K., Maza E., Bar-Oz G., and Dor R. (2019), «A checklist of Israeli land vertebrates», Isr. J. Ecol. Evol., 65(1 – 2), 43 – 49.

Moravec J., Kratochvíl L., Amr Z. S., Jandzik D., Šmíd J., and Gvoždík V. (2011), «High genetic differentiation within the Hemidactylus turcicus complex (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) in the Levant, with comments on the phylogeny and systematics of the genus», Zootaxa, 2894(1), 21 – 38.

Pafilis P., Foufopoulos J., Poulakakis N., Lymberakis P., and Valakos E. D. (2009a), «Tail shedding in island lizards [Lacertidae, Reptilia]: decline of antipredator defenses in relaxed predation environments», Evolution, 63(5), 1262 – 1278.

Pafilis P., Meiri S., Foufopoulos J., and Valakos E. D. (2009b), «Intraspecific competition and high food availability are associated with insular gigantism in a lizard», Naturwissenschaften, 96(9), 1107 – 1113.

R Core Team (2017), R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing, R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.

Raia P., Guarino F., Turano M., Polese G., Rippa D., Carotenuto F., Monti D., Cardi M., and Fulgione D. (2010), «The blue lizard spandrel and the island syndrome», BMC Evol. Biol., 10(1), 289.

Sivan D., Wdowinski S., Lambeck K., Galili E., and Raban A. (2001), «Holocene sea-level changes along the Mediterranean coast of Israel, based on archaeological observations and numerical model», Palaeogeogr. Palaecol., 167(1 – 2), 101 – 117.

Slavenko A., Itescu Y., Foufopoulos J., Pafilis P., and Meiri S. (2015), «Clutch size variability in an ostensibly fix-clutched lizard: effects of insularity on a Mediterranean gecko», Evol. Biol., 42(2), 129 – 136.

Sneh Y. and Klein M. (1984), «Holocene sea level changes at the coast of Dor, Southeast Mediterranean», Science, 226(4676), 831 – 832.

Tamar K., Carranza S., Sindaco R., Moravec J., and Meiri S. (2014), «Systematics and phylogeography of Acanthodactylus scheriberi and its relationships with Acanthodactylus boskianus (Reptilia: Squamata: Lacertidae)», Zool. J. Linn. Soc. Lond., 172(3), 720 – 739.

Triantis K. A., Guilhaumon F., and Whittaker R. J. (2012), «The island species-area relationship: biology and statistics», J. Biogeogr., 39(2), 215 – 231.

Valakos E. D., Pafilis P., Sotiropoulos K., Lymberakis P., Maragou P., and Foufopoulos J. (2008), The Amphibians and Reptiles of Greece, Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main.

Werner Y. L. (2016), Reptile Life in the Land of Israel, Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main.

Whittaker R. J. and Fernández-Palacios J. M. (2007), Island Biogeography: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation, Oxford University Press, New York.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

You can subscribe to the print or electronic version of the journal on the site of EastView Company. If you have any questions, please write to the email