The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is a damaging invasive species that has become established in many Mediterranean-type ecosystems worldwide. To identify likely sources of introduced populations we examined the relationships among native Linepithema populations from Argentina and Brazil and introduced populations of L. humile using mitochondrial cytochrome b sequence data and nuclear microsatellite allele frequencies. The mitochondrial phylogeny revealed that the populations in Brazil were only distantly related to both the introduced populations and the native populations in Argentina, and confirmed that populations in Brazil, previously identified as L. humile, are likely a different species. The microsatellite-based analysis provided resolution among native and introduced populations of L. humile that could not be resolved using the mitochondrial sequences. In the native range, colonies that were geographically close to one another tended to be genetically similar, whereas more distant colonies were genetically different. Most samples from the introduced range were genetically similar, although some exceptions were noted. Most introduced populations were similar to native populations from the southern Rio Parana and were particularly similar to a population from Rosario, Argentina. These findings implicate populations from the southern Rio Parana as the most likely source of introduced populations. Moreover, these data suggest that current efforts to identify natural enemies of the Argentine ant for biological control should focus on native populations in the southern Rio Parana watershed.
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