Test of colonisation scenarios reveals complex invasion history of the red tomato spider mite Tetranychus evansi.
The spider mite Tetranychus evansi is an emerging pest of solanaceous crops worldwide. Like many other emerging pests, its small size, confusing taxonomy, complex history of associations with humans, and propensity to start new populations from small inocula, make the study of its invasion biology difficult. Here, we use recent developments in Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) and variation in multi-locus genetic markers to reconstruct the complex historical demography of this cryptic invasive pest. By distinguishing among multiple pathways and timing of introductions, we find evidence for the "bridgehead effect", in which one invasion serves as source for subsequent invasions. Tetranychus evansi populations in Europe and Africa resulted from at least three independent introductions from South America and involved mites from two distinct sources in Brazil, corresponding to highly divergent mitochondrial DNA lineages. Mites from southwest Brazil (BR-SW) colonized the African continent, and from there Europe through two pathways in a "bridgehead" type pattern. One pathway resulted in a widespread invasion, not only to Europe, but also to other regions in Africa, southern Europe and eastern Asia. The second pathway involved the mixture with a second introduction from BR-SW leading to an admixed population in southern Spain. Admixture was also detected between invasive populations in Portugal. A third introduction from the Brazilian Atlantic region resulted in only a limited invasion in Europe. This study illustrates that ABC methods can provide insights into, and distinguish among, complex invasion scenarios. These processes are critical not only in understanding the biology of invasions, but also in refining management strategies for invasive species. For example, while reported observations of the mite and outbreaks in the invaded areas were largely consistent with estimates of geographical expansion from the ABC approach, historical observations failed to recognize the complex pathways involved and the corresponding effects on genetic diversity.