Into the weeds: matching importation history to genetic consequences and pathways in two widely used biological control agents.
The intentional introduction of exotic species through classical biological control programs provides unique opportunities to examine the consequences of population movement and ecological processes for the genetic diversity and population structure of introduced species. The weevils Neochetina bruchi and N. eichhorniae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) have been introduced globally to control the invasive floating aquatic weed, Eichhornia crassipes, with variable outcomes. Here, we use the importation history and data from polymorphic microsatellite markers to examine the effects of introduction processes on population genetic diversity and structure. We report the first confirmation of hybridization between these species, which could have important consequences for the biological control program. For both species, there were more rare alleles in weevils from the native range than in weevils from the introduced range. N. eichhorniae also had higher allelic richness in the native range than in the introduced range. Neither the number of individuals initially introduced nor the number of introduction steps appeared to consistently affect genetic diversity. We found evidence of genetic drift, inbreeding, and admixture in several populations as well as significant population structure. Analyses estimated two populations and 11 sub-clusters for N. bruchi and four populations and 23 sub-clusters for N. eichhorniae, indicating divergence of populations during and after introduction. Genetic differentiation and allocation of introduced populations to source populations generally supported the documented importation history and clarified pathways in cases where multiple introductions occurred. In populations with multiple introductions, genetic admixture may have buffered against the negative effects of serial bottlenecks on genetic diversity. The genetic data combined with the introduction history from this biological control study system provide insight on the accuracy of predicting introduction pathways from genetic data and the consequences of these pathways for the genetic variation and structure of introduced species.