Genetic evidence for multiple introduction events of raccoons (Procyon lotor) in Spain
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- Alda, F., Ruiz-López, M.J., García, F.J. et al. Biol Invasions (2013) 15: 687. doi:10.1007/s10530-012-0318-6
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The common raccoon (Procyon lotor) is endemic to Central and North America, although non-native populations have become established around the world. In Spain, growing evidence of the introduction of raccoons has been reported across the country in the last decade, especially in Central Spain where the largest population is thought to occur. We used mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA data to investigate the genetics of invasive raccoons in Central Spain and to infer: the number of introduction events, the number of founders and the genetic variability of the introduced populations compared to a native population. We found that at least two introduction events have occurred along the Jarama and Henares Rivers in Central Spain, which currently constitute two genetically differentiated subpopulations. In both localities the number of effective founders from a native population was estimated as 2–4 individuals. These newly founded populations have expanded and show evidence of incipient contact and reproduction between them. This may allow for an increase in the genetic variability and adaptive potential of the population(s), possibly increasing the difficulty of controlling this invasive species. Our results reveal the ability to longitudinally monitor the genetics of the raccoon range expansion and emphasize the urgent need to control the pet trade of potentially invasive species.