Mitochondrial DNA offers unique insights into invasion history of the common starling


Lee Ann Rollins, Fax: +61 293852198; E-mail:


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be a powerful genetic marker for tracing origins and history of invasive populations. Here, we use mtDNA to address questions relevant to the understanding of invasion pathways of common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) into Western Australia (WA) and discuss the utility of this marker to provide information useful to invasive species management. Mitochondrial sequence data indicate two geographically restricted genetic groups within Australia. Evidence of dispersal from genetically distinct sources outside the sampled range of starlings in Australia suggests increased vigilance by management agencies may be required to prevent further incursions from widely separated localities. Overall, genetic diversity in Australia was lower than in samples from the native range. Within Australia, genetic diversity was lowest in the most recently colonized area in the west, indicating that demographic bottlenecks have occurred in this area. Evidence of restricted dispersal between localities on the edge of the range expansion (ERE) in WA and other Australian sampling localities suggests that localized control within the ERE may be effective in preventing further range expansion. Signatures of spatial and demographic expansion are present in mismatch analyses from sampling localities located at the ERE, but neutrality indices did not support this finding, suggesting that the former may be more sensitive to recent expansion. Additionally, mismatch analyses support the presence of admixture, which is likely to have occurred pre-introduction. We compare our findings with those from a microsatellite study of the same samples and discuss how the mtDNA analyses used here offer valuable and unique insights into the invasion history of introduced species.