Museo Civico di Zoologia

Rome, Italy

Museo Civico di Zoologia

Rome, Italy
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Bombi P.,SPACEnvironment | Capula M.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | D'Amen M.,SPACEnvironment
Animal Biology | Year: 2011

Sardinian populations of the snake Hemorrhois (= Coluber) hippocrepis are likely the most endangered populations of snakes in Italy. Major threats to survivorship are the anthropogenic habitat alteration and the extremely low population density, while nothing is known about the potential effects that climate change could exert on this species. The main goal of this paper is to provide helpful instruments for the short-and long-term conservation of H. hippocrepis in Sardinia. By means of an ecological modeling approach, we derived the Sardinian whip snake habitat suitability map, and we compared the potential range extent under present condition and future climatic scenarios. Results clearly show an alarming trend for H. hippocrepis conservation: changing climate conditions will cause a dramatic reduction on suitable surface since 2020, with a further collapse by 2050 (down to 11 km 2). We also identified areas of species potential persistence up till 2050, where prospective management initiatives could have the greatest probability of success in this region. In particular, only one existing protected area will likely still keep suitable habitats for H. hippocrepis. Therefore, we suggest that very careful management of this relictual area should be implemented by now if we really want to save these exceedingly threatened snake populations. © 2011 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.

Casalini R.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Baviera C.,Messina University
Zootaxa | Year: 2012

All taxa closely related to or synonymized with Rhinusa tetra (Fabricius, 1792) are studied, including the available type material. Four species are considered taxonomically valid: Rhinusa tetra, R. comosa (Rosenschoeld, 1838), R. moroderi (Reitter, 1906), R. verbasci (Rosenschoeld, 1838). The following four new synonymies are proposed: R. tetra (= Gymnetron eoum Rosenschoeld, 1838 syn. n.; = Cleopus uncinatus Dufour, 1843 syn. n.; = Cleopus verbasci Dufour, 1843 syn. n.); R. moroderi (= Gymnetron otini Hustache, 1946 syn. n). Neotypes are designated for Cionus amictus Germar, 1821, Cleopus uncinatus and Cleopus verbasci. Lectotypes are designated for Curculio teter, Gymnetron comosum, Gymnetron crassirostre Lucas, 1849, Gymnetron eoum, Gymnetron fuscescens Rosenschoeld, 1838, Gymnetron haemorrhoum Rosenhauer, 1847, Gymnetron moroderi, Gymnetron plagiellum Gyllenhal, 1838, Gymnetron trigonale Gyllenhal, 1838 and Gymnetron verbasci, all currently included in Rhinusa. A key separating the four valid species is supported by diagnoses, biological notes, distributional data and illustrations. These new findings are important because R. tetra in the broad sense was proposed as a potential candidate for the biological control of invasive Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.) in North America. Copyright © 2012 · Magnolia Press.

Loy A.,University of Molise | Tamburelli A.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Carlini R.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Slice D.E.,Florida State University
Marine Mammal Science | Year: 2011

The variability of cranial features of Atlantic and Mediterranean samples of Stenella coeruleoalba was examined using a three-dimensional geometric morphometric approach. Data were collected on 79 skulls from the upper and middle Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic French coasts, and Scotland. Three-dimensional x, y, and z coordinates of 27 landmarks were recorded on each left half skull using a Microscribe 3-D digitizer. All configurations were rotated, centered, and scaled, and residuals from the mean configuration were analyzed through multivariate analyses of variance. Mahalanobis distances among populations were used to evaluate phenetic relationships. Consensus configurations were compared to visualize shape differences among samples. Analyses revealed significant differences among populations, a clear distinction of the Scottish coasts dolphins from the other samples, and a closer relationship of the dolphins from the French coasts to the Mediterranean populations than to the Scottish one. Shape differences are mainly concentrated in the rostral and in the occipital regions of the skull. Phylogenetic and adaptive factors were invoked as possible causes of the variation patterns. © 2010 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Kolbe J.J.,University of Rhode Island | Lavin B.R.,University of California at Berkeley | Lavin B.R.,Sonoma State University | Burke R.L.,Hofstra University | And 3 more authors.
Biological Invasions | Year: 2013

Tests of invasion success often require comparisons between introduced and native populations, but determining the native-range sources for introduced populations can be difficult. Molecular markers can help clarify the geographic extent of native-range sources, helping to identify which populations are appropriate for comparative studies. The Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus) was introduced multiple times to the United States with extant populations in California, Kansas, New Jersey, and New York. We used phylogeographic analysis of mtDNA sequences (cytb gene) for individuals sampled from these introduced populations and across the native range to identify the number of independent introductions and the location of the source populations. Haplotypes sampled from introduced populations were nested within three geographically distinct, well-supported clades that together encompassed a large portion of the native range. Combining these phylogeographic results with documentation of the introductions revealed putative sources: California individuals are derived from Sicily; Kansas and New York populations are from Tuscany near Florence; and the New Jersey population is likely from the Adriatic coastal region, but a more specific locality is not possible. The pet trade dominates the invasion pathway for P. siculus introductions to the US. The genetically and geographically diverse sampling of its native range may be driven by the desire for phenotypic variety in the pet trade, a hypothesis that needs future testing. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Del Vecchio S.,Third University of Rome | Burke R.L.,Hofstra University | Rugiero L.,Centro di Studi Ambientali Demetra s.r.l. | Capula M.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Luiselli L.,Centro di Studi Ambientali Demetra s.r.l.
Herpetologica | Year: 2011

Herbivory is the dominant feeding strategy in tortoises, and dietary shifts are common in response to changes in resource availability. We conducted the first large-scale study of the diets of wild Hermann's Tortoises (Testudo hermanni hermanni) and found that the study population in central Italy was strictly herbivorous. The tortoises ate primarily legume leaves and grasses in the spring, and switched to flowers and unripe fruit of Ruscus aculeatus as these became available in the autumn. There were no significant differences between the diets of males and females. Although tortoise diets included both rare and abundant plant species, they consumed abundant plant species in a higher proportion than those species occurred in the study area. However, some rare plants made up relatively large fractions of the diet, and one of the few nonnative plants (Conyza canadensis) at the study area was eaten frequently by tortoises in all seasons, despite its relative rarity. Ruscus aculeatus berries may be particularly valuable to tortoises that are about to enter hibernation; hence, T. hermanni habitat should be managed to maintain this important plant species. © 2011 by The Herpetologists' League, Inc.

Luiselli L.,Centro di Studi Ambientali Demetra s.r.l. | Rugiero L.,Centro di Studi Ambientali Demetra s.r.l. | Massimo C.,Museo Civico di Zoologia
Herpetological Journal | Year: 2011

Snakes are rather difficult subjects for demographic studies. When snakes are not abundant in the feild, herpetologists have learnt that a good method for population studies is to rely on mass captures at den sites. In several snake species females also exhibit oviposition at communal nest sites, which are utilized year after year. These oviposition sites may then serve to record individuals for snake population studies. Here, we compared population size estimates generated from a 17-year study of gravid females at a communal nesting site (CNF) with population size estimates from the same snake population across an 8-year traditional capture-mark-recapture (CMR) study. Although in our case only open population methods are appropriate for calculating yearly population sizes, we also used closed population methods in order to highlight an eventual effect of the models used. As a study species, we used the European whip snake (Hierophis viridifavus) at a site in Mediterranean central Italy. Overall, population size estimates were significantly different between the two methods, with estimates from the CNF samples always higher than those obtained with traditional CMR. This difference was particularly strong with closed population methods, but still evident with open population models when the whole study period was considered. However, there were no statistical differences between population sizes estimated with CNF and CMR when only a subset of years (2002-2009) was used. No statistical relationship between population size estimates with CMR against CNF by year was uncovered, showing that CNF samples did not capture inter-annual variations in population sizes. We conclude that it might not be sound to use population size estimates from CNF samples instead of more traditional CMR studies, although yearly population size variations may at least in part be responsible for the differences between CNF and CMR estimates.

Filippi E.,Centro di Studi Ambientali Demetra Srl | Rugiero L.,Centro di Studi Ambientali Demetra Srl | Capula M.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Burke R.L.,Hofstra University | Luiselli L.,Centro di Studi Ambientali Demetra Srl
Chelonian Conservation and Biology | Year: 2010

Herman's tortoise, Testudo h. hermanni, is an endangered subspecies in Italy, France, and Spain. We studied a Herman's tortoise population in the Riserva Naturale Regionale Monterano in the Tolfa Mountains of central Italy. We found that, unlike most other studies of this and related species, sex ratios were 11, and half the population was made up of juveniles. Sexual maturity was reached at 12 years in males and 1213 years in females, and females were significantly larger. Tortoises greatly preferred open maquis habitat over other habitat types and thermoregulated so that body temperatures stayed consistently above ambient temperatures, especially under low ambient temperature conditions. Presence of ticks was significantly associated with an index of thermoregulatory behavior. We suggest that maintenance of open maquis habitat in this reserve is essential to high hatchling production and effective thermoregulation. © 2010 Chelonian Research Foundation.

Rugiero L.,Demetra s.r.l. | Milana G.,University of Rome La Sapienza | Petrozzi F.,Ecologia Applicata Italia s.r.l. | Capula M.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Luiselli L.,Demetra s.r.l.
Acta Oecologica | Year: 2013

Global warming is thought to be a far-reaching threat to biodiversity, and is supposed to influence several aspects of the ecology of animals. Global warming should influence especially the ectotherm vertebrates, which depend directly from the external thermal conditions for their activities and performances. Here, we analyze the changes in phenology which have occurred in the last 20 years in a marked population of vipers, Vipera aspis, and we try to relate these changes with the intervening climatic changes. We analyzed three metrics of viper's annual phenology: (i) annual onset of above-ground activity (hereby AOA); (ii) annual onset of feeding period (AOF); (iii) annual onset of the hibernation (AOH). The annual variations of these three phenological metrics were correlated to five variables of climatic data: (1) mean annual air temperature, (2) mean February air temperature, (3) mean July air temperature, (4) yearly number of rainy days, and (5) yearly number of days with rainstorm. We observed a statistically significant reduction of AOA values from >28 days between 1987 and 1997, to approximately 20 days from 1998 to 2011, with a similar statistical trend also found for AOF values. The number of days of delay in entering hibernation increased significantly since 1998. Three sets of relationships between climatic variables and metrics of viper phenology were statistically significant, i.e. the correlation (i) between annual mean temperature and AOA (negative), (ii) between annual mean temperature and AOF (negative), and (iii) between annual mean temperature and AOH (positive). The percent of field days (between 20th February and 20th March) with no viper observed also decreased significantly over the years. Our study showed that three different traits of the annual phenology of a Mediterranean snake are shifting in the 20+ years of monitoring, and that there is correlational evidence that these shifts are linked to intervening climate change. © 2013 Elsevier Masson SAS.

Rugiero L.,Demetra s.r.l. | Milana G.,University of Rome La Sapienza | Capula M.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Amori G.,CNR Institute of Neuroscience | Luiselli L.,Demetra s.r.l.
Acta Oecologica | Year: 2012

The study of the dietary changes which have intervened over the years in generalist and opportunist predators may provide useful information on the temporal modifications of their prey communities, especially under a climate change scenario. In this study, we analysed the quantitative changes in the small mammal portion of the diet of a generalist and opportunist predator, the asp viper (Vipera aspis) at a forest zone in central Italy, for the period 1987-2010. In addition, small mammals were trapped in five of these years. Apodemus spp., Mus musculus, and Myodes glareolus were the main prey for vipers. Among the various taxa eaten by vipers, only two showed significantly consistent trends over the years, with M. glareolus increasing and Sorex spp. declining in the viper diet. There were no significant relationships between the number of years passed after the first year of sampling and the diversity and dominance indexes of prey composition. We also found a significantly positive relationship between small mammal abundance in the field and their relative frequency of occurrence in the viper's diet, thus demonstrating that vipers really sampled the small mammal species in relation to their local availability. Despite being temperate-zone forest-associated species, hence likely adversed by global warming, Sorex spp. and M. glareolus showed opposite trends over the years, thus suggesting that such trends may reflect more local scale perturbations (local forest overgrowth and diminution of logging). © 2012 Elsevier Masson SAS.

Capula M.,Museo Civico di Zoologia | Aloise G.,University of Calabria
Acta Herpetologica | Year: 2011

In the present paper the occurrence of cannibalism, unusual predation on small reptiles [Hemidactylus turcicus (Reptilia, Gekkonidae)], and foraging on small mammal carrion [Suncus etruscus (Mammalia, Soricidae)] by P. siculus is reported. © Firenze University Press.

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