Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 1067–1087

Comparative phylogeography of invasive Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus in the U.S. reveals distinct colonization histories and dispersal


    • Department of ZoologyOklahoma State University
    • Department of ZoologyOklahoma State University
  • Meredith J. Hamilton
    • Department of ZoologyOklahoma State University
  • Janet K. Braun
    • Sam Noble MuseumUniversity of Oklahoma
  • Michael A. Mares
    • Sam Noble MuseumUniversity of Oklahoma
    • Department of ZoologyUniversity of Oklahoma
  • Ronald A. Van Den Bussche
    • Department of ZoologyOklahoma State University
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10530-012-0351-5

Cite this article as:
Lack, J.B., Hamilton, M.J., Braun, J.K. et al. Biol Invasions (2013) 15: 1067. doi:10.1007/s10530-012-0351-5


Invasive Rattus are arguably the most costly and destructive invasive species on the planet, but little is known concerning their invasion history and population structure in the U.S. We utilized both nuclear microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA sequences (mtDNA) to compare the colonization history, patterns of gene flow, and levels of genetic diversity of Rattus rattus and R. norvegicus in the U.S. Analyses of mtDNA suggest R. rattus is characterized by a single rapid expansion into the U.S. from one or two very closely related mtDNA lineages or geographic sources. For R. norvegicus, mtDNA analyses suggest at least four invasions distinct in space and/or time have occurred to establish its distribution in the U.S. Microsatellite analyses suggest for R. rattus that dispersal is characterized by an isolation-by-distance pattern, suggesting a relatively low frequency of long distance dispersal, and low levels of establishment for novel propagules. In contrast, microsatellite analyses of R. norvegicus suggest high frequencies of long distance dispersal and essentially panmixia among nearly all sampled populations, as well as a high frequency of novel propagules entering at the east and west coasts and assimilating into established populations. We discuss these results in the context of invasive Rattus management in the U.S. and their implications for invasive species in general, as well as the implications for managing the spread of rat-borne pathogens.


Rattus rattusRattus norvegicusColonization historyInterspecific interactionDispersal

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (EPS 644 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (EPS 654 kb)
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Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 86 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012