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Mixed but not admixed: a spatial analysis of genetic variation of an invasive ascidian on natural and artificial substrates

Abstract

Following the introduction to a new area (pre-border dispersal), post-border processes determine the success in the establishment of non-indigenous species (NIS). However, little is known on how these post-border processes shape the genetic composition of NIS at regional scales. Here, we analyse genetic variation in introduced populations along impacted coastlines to infer demographic and kinship dynamics at the post-border stage. We used as a model system the ascidian species Microcosmus squamiger that has been introduced worldwide. This species can colonize and grow fast on man-made artificial structures, impacting activities such as mariculture. However, it can also establish itself on natural substrates, thus altering natural communities and becoming an ecological problem. We genotyped 302 individuals from eight populations established on natural and artificial substrates in the north-western Mediterranean Sea, using six microsatellite loci. We then compared the resulting genotypes with those found within the native range of the species. We found high levels of genetic diversity and allelic richness in all populations, with an overall deficit of heterozygotes. Autocorrelation analyses showed that there was no within-population genetic structure (at a scale of tens of metres); likewise, no significant differentiation in pairwise comparisons between populations (tens of kilometres apart) and no isolation-by-distance pattern was found. The results suggest that M. squamiger has a natural capacity for high dispersal from one patch of hard substrate to another and no differences whatsoever could be substantiated between natural and artificial substrates. Interestingly, two groups of genetically differentiated individuals were detected that were associated with the two ancestral source areas of the worldwide expansion of the species. Individual assignment tests showed the coexistence of individuals of these two clusters in all populations but with little interbreeding among them as the frequency of admixed individuals was only 15 %. The mechanism responsible for maintaining these genetic pools unmixed is unknown, but it does not appear to compromise post-border colonization of introduced populations.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff at the Scientific and Technical Services of the University of Barcelona for their help with the genotyping process. We are also grateful to three anonymous reviewers for constructive criticism that helped improve the manuscript. This research was funded by projects CTM2010-22218 of the Spanish Government, BIOCON08-187 of the FBBVA and PIE 200730I026 of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC). Funding to M. R. came from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no PIOF-GA-2009-254634. V. O. was supported by a FPU PhD scholarship (AP2008/04209) from the Spanish Ministerio de Educación. The authors are part of the research groups 2009SGR-636 and 2009SGR-484 of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Spain).

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Communicated by S. Uthicke.

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Ordóñez, V., Pascual, M., Rius, M. et al. Mixed but not admixed: a spatial analysis of genetic variation of an invasive ascidian on natural and artificial substrates. Mar Biol 160, 1645–1660 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-013-2217-5

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Keywords

  • Genetic Structure
  • Allelic Richness
  • Genetic Group
  • Artificial Substrate
  • Spatial Genetic Structure