Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

A recent invasive population of the European starling sturnus vulgaris has lower genetic diversity and higher fluctuating asymmetry than primary invasive and native populations.

Abstract

Fluctuating asymmetries (FA) are small stress-induced random deviations from perfect symmetry that arise during the development of bilaterally symmetrical traits. One of the factors that can reduce developmental stability of the individuals and cause FA at a population level is the loss of genetic variation. Populations of founding colonists frequently have lower genetic variation than their ancestral populations that could be reflected in a higher level of FA. The European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is native to Eurasia and was introduced successfully in the USA in 1890 and Argentina in 1983. In this study, we documented the genetic diversity and FA of starlings from England (ancestral population), USA (primary introduction) and Argentina (secondary introduction). We predicted the Argentinean starlings would have the highest level of FA and lowest genetic diversity of the three populations. We captured wild adult European starlings in England, USA, and Argentina, measured their mtDNA diversity and allowed them to molt under standardized conditions to evaluate their FA of primary feathers. For genetic analyses, we extracted DNA from blood samples of individuals from Argentina and USA and from feather samples from individuals from England and sequenced the mitochondrial control region. Starlings in Argentina showed the highest composite FA and exhibited the lowest haplotype and nucleotide diversity. The USA population showed a level of FA and genetic diversity similar to the native population. Therefore, the level of asymmetry and genetic diversity found among these populations was consistent with our predictions based on their invasion history.