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Why do two-sex geckos triumph?

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1:32pm, July 29, 2003

From Boise, Idaho, at a meeting of the Animal Behavior Society

The smell of one invading species of gecko has a mysterious influence on the activity of the defending species, but the voodoo doesn't work on first exposure, reports a researcher in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian Islands and many other islands in the Pacific Ocean have long been home to Lepidodactylus lugubris, a species of unisexual lizards. These geckos, which are effective colonizers, probably reached Hawaii with the Polynesians. As more people moved around the Pacific during World War II, a bigger species (Hemidactylus frenatus) that has two sexes started spreading. When H. frenatus arrives on an island, the population of the unisexual species plummets. Susan Brown, a biologist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, wonders why.

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