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Keywords:

  • approximate Bayesian computation;
  • biological invasion;
  • Erinaceus europaeus ;
  • establishment;
  • invasion lag;
  • New Zealand

Abstract

The crucial steps in biological invasions, related to the shaping of genetic architecture and the current evolution of adaptations to a novel environment, usually occur in small populations during the phases of introduction and establishment. However, these processes are difficult to track in nature due to invasion lag, large geographic and temporal scales compared with human observation capabilities, the frequent depletion of genetic variance, admixture and other phenomena. In this study, we compared genetic and historical evidence related to the invasion of the West European hedgehog to New Zealand to infer details about the introduction and establishment. Historical information indicates that the species was initially established on the South Island. A molecular assay of populations from Great Britain and New Zealand using mitochondrial sequences and nuclear microsatellite loci was performed based on a set of analyses including approximate Bayesian computation, a powerful approach for disentangling complex population demographies. According to these analyses, the population of the North Island was most similar to that of the native area and showed greatest reduction in genetic variation caused by founder demography and/or drift. This evidence indicated the location of the establishment phase. The hypothesis was corroborated by data on climate and urbanization. We discuss the contrasting results obtained by the molecular and historical approaches in the light of their different explanatory power and the possible biases influencing the description of particular aspects of invasions, and we advocate the integration of the two types of approaches in invasion biology.