The Galápagos Islands constitute one of the most pristine tropical systems on Earth. However, the complex and fragile equilibrium of native species is threatened by invasive species, among which is one of the most successful ants in the world, the tropical fire ant, Solenopsis geminata. We characterized the genetic structure and diversity of populations of S. geminata in the Galápagos Islands and unravelled the archipelago colonization by combining Bayesian clustering methods and coalescent-based scenario testing. Using 12 microsatellite markers and one mitochondrial DNA fragment (COI), we analysed individuals collected in all main invaded islands of the archipelago and from the native areas in Costa Rica and mainland Ecuador. We also used mitochondrial DNA to infer evolutionary relationships of samples collected in Galápagos Islands, Ecuador, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries. Our results showed that genetic diversity was significantly lower in Galápagos Islands and mainland Ecuador populations when compared to Costa Rican populations, and that samples from Galápagos Islands and mainland Ecuador (Guayaquil) clustered in a single group and all share a single mtDNA haplotype. Approximate Bayesian Computation favoured a scenario assuming that populations from Galápagos Islands diverged from mainland Ecuador. The city of Guyaquil, an obligatory hub for tourism and trade, could act as a bridgehead.
Biological Invasions – Springer Journals
Published: May 30, 2018
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