Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Genomic data support multiple introductions and explosive demographic expansions in a highly invasive aquatic insect.

Abstract

The study of the genetic makeup and demographic fate of alien species is essential to understand their capacity to recover from founder effects, adapt to new environmental conditions and, ultimately, become invasive and potentially damaging. Here, we employ genomic data to gain insights into key demographic processes that might help to explain the extraordinarily successful invasion of the Western Mediterranean region by the North American boatman Trichocorixa verticalis (Hemiptera: Corixidae). Our analyses revealed the genetic distinctiveness of populations from the main areas comprising the invasive range and coalescent-based simulations supported that they originated from independent introductions events probably involving different source populations. Testing of alternative demographic models indicated that all populations experienced a strong bottleneck followed by a recent and instantaneous demographic expansion that restored a large portion (>30%) of their ancestral effective population sizes shortly after introductions took place (<60 years ago). Considerable genetic admixture of some populations suggest that hypothetical barriers to dispersal (i.e., land and sea water) are permeable to gene flow and/or that they originated from introductions involving multiple lineages. This study demonstrates the repeated arrival of propagules with different origins and short time lags between arrival and establishment, emphasizing the extraordinary capacity of the species to recover from founder effects and genetically admix in invaded areas. This can explain the demonstrated capacity of this aquatic insect to spread and outcompete native species once it colonizes new suitable regions. Future genomic analyses of native range populations could help to infer the genetic makeup of introduced populations and track invasion routes.