Contrasting patterns in genetic diversity following multiple invasions of fresh and brackish waters

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Molecular Ecology





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Biological invasions may combine the genetic effects of population bottlenecks and selection and thus provide valuable insight into the role of such processes during novel environmental colonizations. However, these processes are also influenced by multiple invasions, the number of individuals introduced and the degree of similarity between source and receiving habitats. The amphipod Gammarus tigrinus provides a useful model to assess these factors, as its invasion history has involved major environmental transitions. This species is native to the northwest Atlantic Ocean, although it invaded both brackish and freshwater habitats in the British Isles after introduction more than 65 years ago. It has also spread to similar habitats in Western Europe and, most recently, to Eastern Europe, the Baltic Sea, and the Laurentian Great Lakes. To examine sources of invasion and patterns of genetic change, we sampled populations from 13 native estuaries and 19 invaded sites and sequenced 542 bp of the mitochondrial COI gene. Strong native phylogeographical structure allowed us to unambiguously identify three allopatrically evolved clades (2.3-3.1% divergent) in invading populations, indicative of multiple introductions. The most divergent clades occurred in the British Isles and mainland Europe and were sourced from the St Lawrence and Chesapeake/Delaware Bay estuaries. A third clade was found in the Great Lakes and sourced to the Hudson River estuary. Despite extensive sampling, G. tigrinus did not occur in freshwater at putative source sites. Some European populations showed reduced genetic diversity consistent with bottlenecks, although selection effects cannot be excluded. The habitat distribution of clades in Europe was congruent with the known invasion history of secondary spread from the British Isles. Differences in salinity tolerance among lineages were suggested by patterns of habitat colonization by different native COI clades. Populations consisting of admixtures of the two invading clades were found principally at recently invaded fresh and brackish water sites in Eastern Europe, and were characterized by higher genetic diversity than putative source populations. Further studies are required to determine if these represent novel genotypes. Our results confirm that biological invasions need not result in diminished genetic diversity, particularly if multiple source populations, each with distinctive genetic composition, contribute to the founding populations. © 2006 The Authors.