Colonization of Brazil by the cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) revealed by mitochondrial DNA.
The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) has recently colonized Brazil. This process offers an excellent opportunity for the study of colonization and dispersal patterns across extensive areas by non-native birds. The aims of the present investigation were (a) to determine the genetic diversity of the cattle egret in Brazil and Africa, (b) evaluate genetic differentiation between populations in different regions of Brazil and Africa, and (c) detect genetic signs of demographic expansion in these two areas. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Control Region (CR) sequences were obtained from 112 cattle egrets in four Brazilian and four African (Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria) populations. Genetic diversity (H, h, θs) and population structure (AMOVA, Fst) were assessed and the populations were tested for signs of recent demographic expansion. A total of 35 haplotypes were found: 22 exclusive to Africa, 10 exclusive to Brazil and three shared by both samples. The degree of genetic diversity, determined by mtDNA analysis, was similar between Brazil and Africa, demonstrating that the successful colonization of the non-native area occurred with no significant loss of diversity. The pairwise Fst values among the Brazilian and African populations were all significantly different. The population in southern Brazilian exhibited the lowest degree of differentiation with respect to the African population, followed by the southeastern and northeastern populations of the country. The genetic differentiation data suggest that the colonization of Brazil by the cattle egret began in the southern region and expanded to the southeastern and northeastern regions of the country. This genetic differentiation pattern is in accordance with the higher number of cattle per grazing area in southern Brazil, which may have favored the onset of the successful establishment of the species. The findings indicate that mtDNA genetic diversity was retained during the colonization process and colonization began in the southern region of the country. Moreover, signs of demographic expansion were detected in the African sample.