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ESR 54:181-189 (2024)  -  DOI:

Ecology, natural history, and conservation status of Scolopendra abnormis, a threatened centipede endemic to Mauritius

Maximillian P. T. G. Tercel1,2,*, Jordan P. Cuff3, Ian P. Vaughan1, William O. C. Symondson1,†, Martine Goder4, Sunil Matadeen5, Vikash Tatayah4, Nik C. Cole2,4

1School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3AX, UK
2Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Les Augrès Manor, La Profonde Rue, Trinity, Jersey JE3 5BP, Channel Islands
3School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
4Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Vacoas, 73418 Mauritius
5National Parks & Conservation Service, Ministry of Agro Industry & Food Security Head Office, Reduit 80837, Mauritius
*Corresponding author: W.O.C.S. died during the preparation of this manuscript

ABSTRACT: The Serpent Island centipede Scolopendra abnormis is a threatened centipede species found on only 2 small islands in the Indian Ocean: Round Island, located 22.5 km northeast of Mauritius, and Serpent Island, 4 km northwest of Round Island. Current understanding of its ecology is based on limited direct observations from 30 yr ago. Round Island has since undergone significant habitat restoration. Hyperabundant non-native ants are also present, which may impact centipede nesting behaviour, ecology, and survival. Recent methodological advances, such as high-throughput sequencing of dietary DNA, can extend our understanding of invertebrate ecology and provide data complementary to direct observation. Using a combination of dietary metabarcoding and observational approaches, we provide new insights into the ecology and natural history of this threatened invertebrate predator. S. abnormis nest most consistently in the root network found beneath endemic Pandanus vandermeeschii trees. They are also found in areas with good soil cover, herbaceous growth, and areas of bare rock slab. Only 4 of 43 centipedes in this study were found near an ant foraging trail, which may have significant implications for S. abnormis nesting habits. These centipedes primarily consume insect prey (particularly taxa within Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera), irrespective of centipede body size. A quarter of centipedes also consumed endemic lizards. We also found marked differences in diet composition between wet and dry seasons arising from the changing availability of prey. We provide additional natural history observations and conclude by suggesting conservation actions that would help better understand and safeguard S. abnormis populations.

KEY WORDS: Invertebrate conservation · Chilopoda · Dietary metabarcoding · Round Island · Invertebrate predators · Trophic interactions

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Cite this article as: Tercel MPTG, Cuff JP, Vaughan IP, Symondson WOC and others (2024) Ecology, natural history, and conservation status of Scolopendra abnormis, a threatened centipede endemic to Mauritius. Endang Species Res 54:181-189.

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