Biological Invasions

, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 1521–1527 | Cite as

Mitochondrial DNA evidence for the spread of Pacific rats through Oceania

  • Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith
  • Judith Robins
Invasive Rodents on Islands


In the 10 years since we published our first full analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in Rattus exulans as a means for tracking human migration in Polynesia, we have extended the commensal approach through time and space with the use of ancient DNA (aDNA) and by analysing samples from across the Pacific. Not only can mtDNA phylogenies provide information regarding population origins and paths of migration, they have also provided information regarding degrees of contact and interaction between islands. An important extension of the R. exulans project is the creation and on-going development of a genetic database for the identification of Rattus species based on mtDNA sequences. The phylogenetic analysis of sequences from 18 species and 1 subspecies of Rattus thus far have raised some questions regarding species identification and species distributions in the Pacific.


Rattus exulans Pacific prehistory Ancient DNA 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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