Genetic structure of invasive earthworms Dendrobaena octaedra in the boreal forest of Alberta: insights into introduction mechanisms


Erin Cameron, CW 405 Biological Sciences Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E9. Fax: 1-780-492-9234; E-mail:


Population genetic studies can help to determine whether invasive species are established via single vs. multiple introduction events and also to distinguish among various colonization scenarios. We used this approach to investigate the introduction of Dendrobaena octaedra, a non-native earthworm species, to the boreal forest of northern Alberta. The spread of non-native earthworms in forested systems is not well understood, although bait abandonment and vehicular transport are believed to be important. Mitochondrial DNA sequencing revealed that multiple introductions of this species have occurred in northern Alberta, although individual populations may have been established by either single or multiple invaders introduced on one or more occasions. There was no relationship between genetic distances and either geographical distances or distances along road networks, suggesting that human-mediated jump dispersal is more common than diffusive spread via road networks or via active dispersal. As well, genetic diversity was significantly greater at boat launches than roads, indicating that multiple introductions may be more likely to occur at those locations. Focusing management efforts on areas where multiple introductions are likely to occur may help to reduce invasive species’ potential for adaptive evolution and subsequent rapid spread.