Biological invasions generally start from low initial population sizes, leading to reduced genetic variation in nuclear and especially mitochondrial DNA. Consequently, genetic approaches for the study of invasion history and population structure are difficult. An extreme example is the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Medfly), for which successive invasions during this century have resulted in a loss of 60% of ancestral genetic variation in isozymes and 75% of variation in mitochondrial DNA. Using Medflies as an example, we present a new approach to invasion genetics that measures DNA sequence variation within introns from multiple nuclear loci. These loci are so variable that even relatively recently founded Medfly populations within California and Hawaii retain ample genetic diversity. Invading populations have only lost 35% of the ancestral genetic variation. Intron variation will allow high-resolution genetic characterization of invading populations in both natural and managed systems, although non-equilibrium methods of analysis may be necessary if the genetic diversity represents sorting ancestral polymorphism.
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