Gelatinous zooplankton outbreaks have increased globally owing to a number of human-mediated factors, including food web alterations and species introductions. The invasive ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi entered the Black Sea in the early 1980s. The invasion was followed by the Azov, Caspian, Baltic and North Seas, and, most recently, the Mediterranean Sea. Previous studies identified two distinct invasion pathways of M. leidyi from its native range in the western Atlantic Ocean to Eurasia. However, the source of newly established populations in the Mediterranean Sea remains unclear. Here we build upon our previous study and investigate sequence variation in both mitochondrial (Cytochrome c Oxidase subunit I) and nuclear (Internal Transcribed Spacer) markers in M. leidyi, encompassing five native and 11 introduced populations, including four from the Mediterranean Sea. Extant genetic diversity in Mediterranean populations (n = 8, Na = 10) preclude the occurrence of a severe genetic bottleneck or founder effects in the initial colonizing population. Our mitochondrial and nuclear marker surveys revealed two possible pathways of introduction into Mediterranean Sea. In total, 17 haplotypes and 18 alleles were recovered from all surveyed populations. Haplotype and allelic diversity of Mediterranean populations were comparable to populations from which they were likely drawn. The distribution of genetic diversity and pattern of genetic differentiation suggest initial colonization of the Mediterranean from the Black-Azov Seas (pairwise FST = 0.001–0.028). However, some haplotypes and alleles from the Mediterranean Sea were not detected from the well-sampled Black Sea, although they were found in Gulf of Mexico populations that were also genetically similar to those in the Mediterranean Sea (pairwise FST = 0.010–0.032), raising the possibility of multiple invasion sources. Multiple introductions from a combination of Black Sea and native region sources could be facilitated by intense local and transcontinental shipping activity, respectively.
Ghabooli, Sara; Shiganova, Tamara A.; Briski, Elizabeta; Piraino, Stefano; Fuentes, Veronica; Thibault-Botha, Delphine; Angel, Dror L.; Cristescu, Melania E.; and MacIsaac, Hugh J., "Invasion Pathway of the Ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi in the Mediterranean Sea" (2013). PLOS ONE, 8, 11, e81067-e81067.