Contrasting patterns of genetic diversity and spatial structure in an invasive symbiont-host association.
Do host invaders and their associated symbiont co-invaders have different genetic responses to the same invasion process? To answer this question, we compared genetic patterns of native and exotic populations of an invasive symbiont-host association. This is an approach applied by very few studies, of which most are based on parasites with complex life cycles. We used the mitochondrial genetic marker cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) to investigate a non-parasitic freshwater ectosymbiont with direct life-cycle, low host specificity and well-documented invasion history. The study system was the crayfish Procambarus clarkii and its commensal ostracod Ankylocythere sinuosa, sampled in native (N American) and exotic (European) ranges. Results of analyses indicated: (1) higher genetic diversity in the symbiont than its host; (2) genetic diversity loss in the exotic range for both species, but less pronounced in the symbiont; (3) native populations genetically structured in space, with stronger patterns in the symbiont and (4) loss of spatial genetic structure in the exotic range in both species. The combination of historical, demographic and genetic data supports a higher genetic diversity of source populations and a higher propagule size that allowed the symbiont to overcome founder effects better than its host co-invader. Thus, the symbiont might be endowed with a higher adaptive potential to new hosts or off-host environmental pressures expected in the invasive range. We highlight the usefulness of this relatively unexplored kind of symbiont-host systems in the invasion context to test important ecological and evolutionary questions.