Rapid genetic assimilation of native wall lizard populations (Podarcis muralis) through extensive hybridization with introduced lineages


Ulrich Schulte, Fax: +49 651 201 3851; E-mail: schulte@uni-trier.de


The Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) has established more than 150 non-native populations in Central Europe, stemming from eight geographically distinct evolutionary lineages. While the majority of these introduced populations are found outside the native range, some of these populations also exist at the northern range margin in southwestern Germany. To (i) infer the level of hybridization in contact zones of alien and native lineages; and (ii) compare the genetic diversity among purebred introduced, native and hybrid populations, we used a combination of maternally inherited markers (mtDNA: cytb) and Mendelian markers (microsatellites). Our results suggest a rapid genetic assimilation of native populations by strong introgression from introduced lineages. Discordant patterns of mtDNA and nDNA variation within hybrid populations may be explained by directed mate choice of females towards males of alien lineages. In contrast to previous studies, we found a nonlinear relationship between genetic diversity and admixture level. The genetic diversity of hybrid populations was substantially higher than in introduced and native populations belonging to a single lineage, but rapidly reaching a plateau of high genetic diversity at an admixture level of two. However, even introduced populations with low founder sizes and from one source population retained moderate levels of genetic diversity and no evidence for a genetic bottleneck was found. The extent of introgression and the dominance of alien haplotypes in mixed populations indicate that introductions of non-native lineages represent a serious threat to the genetic integrity of native populations due to the rapid creation of hybrid swarms.