Is a handful of genes responsible for the common starling invasion success?
Invasive species have the ability to colonize new habitats across distinct areas of the globe, rapidly adjusting to new biotic and abiotic conditions, and often experiencing little impact from the decrease in effective population size and genetic diversity. Still, as each invading population represents a subsample of the original native distribution, it is common to see variability in terms of the genetic makeup of invading populations and consequently differences in invasion success rates across their non-native range (Blackburn et al., 2017). In a From the Cover article in this issue of Molecular Ecology, Stuart et al. (2020) used genotyping-by-sequencing to explore how landscape and environmental heterogeneity shaped the genetic population structure and adaptation of multiple invasions of the common starling in Australia, and compared it to the patterns observed in North America, examined in Hofmeister et al. (2019). Their results suggest that the common starling worldwide invasion has been driven by a handful of genes that allowed adaptation to extreme environmental conditions and might be the key for differences in invasion success.