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Keywords:

  • biological invasions;
  • mtDNA sequences;
  • Thiarid molluscs;
  • phylogeography;
  • Melanoides tuberculata;
  • homogenization

Abstract

The parthenogenetic snail Melanoides tuberculata, present in tropical fresh waters of most of the Old World before 1950, has now invaded the Neotropical area. The phylogeography of this snail was studied to evaluate the pathways and number of such invasions. Because of parthenogenetic reproduction, individuals are structured into genetical clones. Within populations from both the original and invaded areas, several morphologically distinct clones (referred to as morphs) often coexist but the amount of genetic divergence among morphs is unknown. Individuals from 27 morphs and 40 populations world-wide were sequenced at two mitochondrial genes (12S and 16S). Our phylogenetic reconstruction suggests that (i) most of the morphological variation observed in the New World predates invasion, (ii) at least six independent introductions have occurred, and (iii) invasive clones are found throughout most of the phylogenetic tree and do not come from a particular region of the area of origin. Two ideas are discussed in the light of these results. The first lies with the specificities of parthenogenesis in an invasion context. While in sexual species, independently introduced populations eventually merge into a single invasive population, in a parthenogenetic species independently introduced clones have distinct invasion dynamics and possibly exclude each other. Second, although repeated invasions in Melanoides may have an impact on indigenous molluscan faunas, their most likely effect is the world-wide homogenization of the invasive taxon itself.