Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Origin of the green iguana (Iguana iguana) invasion in the greater Caribbean Region and Fiji.

Abstract

Invasive populations of green iguanas (Iguanidae: Iguana iguana) are widely established beyond their native Central, South American, and Lesser Antillean range in various islands of the Pacific, Florida USA, and in the Greater Caribbean Region. Although widespread, information about these invasions is scarce. Here we determine the origin of invasive populations of green iguanas in Puerto Rico, Fiji, The Caymans, Florida USA, The Dominican Republic, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) of St. Thomas and St. Croix, and a U.S.A pet store. We sampled 120 individuals from these locations and sequenced one mitochondrial (ND4) and two nuclear (PAC and NT3) loci. We also include a preliminary characterization of population structure throughout Puerto Rico using six microsatellite loci to genotype individuals across 10 sampling sites. Comparing the genealogical relationships of all our samples to published sequencing data from the native range, we found that sampled populations were largely a product of populations from Colombia and El Salvador; two countries with multiple, industrial-size pet iguana farming operations. Notably, we found that haplotypes detected exclusively in the USVI and Puerto Rico's outlying island of Vieques are closely linked to green iguanas native to Saba and Montserrat (Lesser Antilles); a clade not reported in the pet trade. Our population genetic analyses did not reveal isolation among sampling sites in Puerto Rico, rather the evidence supported admixture across the island. This study highlights the roles of the pet trade and lack of regulation in the spread of green iguanas beyond their native range.