Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invasion origin, rapid population expansion, and the lack of genetic structure of cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) in the Americas.

Abstract

In 2013, Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) was officially declared as present in Brazil and, after two years, the species was detected in the Caribbean and North America. Information on genetic features and accurate distribution of pests is the basis for agricultural protection policies. Furthermore, such knowledge is imperative to develop control strategies, understand the geographical range, and genetic patterns of this species in the Americas. Here, we carried out the widest sampling of H. armigera in the South American continent and Puerto Rico, after we estimated the diversity, demographic parameters, and genetic structure. The Internal Transcribed Spacer 1 (ITS1) nuclear marker was used to investigate the presence of putative hybrids between H. armigera and H. zea, and they were observed at a frequency of 1.5%. An ABC analysis, based in COI gene fragment, suggested Europe as the origin of South America specimens of H. armigeraand following a movement northward through the Caribbean. Three mtDNA genes and three nDNA markers revealed high genetic diversity distributed without the defined population structure of H. armigera in South America. Most of the genetic variation is within populations with a multidirectional expansion of H. armigera among morphoclimatic regions. High genetic diversity, rapid population expansion, and hybridization have implications for pest management since they suggest that adaptive alleles are spread through wide areas in South America that favor rapid local adaptation of H. armigera to new and disturbed environments (e.g., in agricultural areas).