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Founder events predict changes in genetic diversity during human-mediated range expansions

Authors


Correspondence: Tobias Uller, tel. +44 0 1865 281194, fax +44 0 1865 271168, e-mail: tobias.uller@zoo.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

Intentional or accidental introduction of species to new locations is predicted to result in loss of genetic variation and increase the likelihood of inbreeding, thus reducing population viability and evolutionary potential. However, multiple introductions and large founder numbers can prevent loss of genetic diversity and may therefore facilitate establishment success and range expansion. Based on a meta-analysis of 119 introductions of 85 species of plants and animals, we here show a quantitative effect of founding history on genetic diversity in introduced populations. Both introduction of large number of individuals and multiple introduction events significantly contribute to maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in introduced populations. The most consistent loss of genetic diversity is seen in insects and mammals, whereas introduced plant populations tend to have higher genetic variation than native populations. However, loss or gain of genetic diversity does not explain variation in the extent to which plant or animal populations become invasive outside of their native range. These results provide strong support for predictions from population genetics theory with respect to patterns of genetic diversity in introduced populations, but suggest that invasiveness is not limited by genetic bottlenecks.

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