Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1897–1913 | Cite as

Tracing historical introductions in the Mediterranean Basin: the success story of the common genet (Genetta genetta) in Europe

  • Philippe GaubertEmail author
  • Irene Del Cerro
  • Alejandro Centeno-Cuadros
  • Francisco Palomares
  • Pascal Fournier
  • Carlos Fonseca
  • Jean-Paul Paillat
  • José Antonio Godoy
Original Paper


The successful introduction of the common genet (Genetta genetta) into Europe has been traditionally associated to the Muslim invasion of Iberia, although diverse evidence suggested an earlier arrival. In this study, we assessed genetic variation at 11 microsatellite loci in 199 individuals from the Mediterranean Basin and used approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) combining genotypes and published mitochondrial sequences. Our objectives were to (1) test alternative scenarios of introduction of the species in Europe, (2) re-assess the mitochondrial signatures of ‘introduction hotspots’ in Iberia, and (3) evaluate how post-introduction demographic processes have shaped genetic structure in the invaded range. ABC estimates favored a scenario of independent introductions from Maghreb into the Balearic Isl. and Iberia; the latter was dated between the Upper Palaeolithic and the end of Phoenicians’ influence. Patterns of genotypic diversity broadened the Andalusian introduction hotspot to the antique Tartessos Kingdom and suggested multiple introductions and/or long-term genetic drift. The best fit ABC scenario implied a natural spread from Iberia to France, but was in potential conflict with our delimitation of two genetic clusters (France and Iberia) in continental Europe. In fact, southwestern France populations showed a fair proportion of alleles shared with Maghreb and low levels of heterozygosity that may reflect subsequent introduction from Iberia, in line with the high error rates in favor of this alternative scenario. Significant patterns of isolation-by-distance among individuals within both genetic clusters are suggestive of natural dispersal from both Iberian and French introduction sites resulting in a secondary contact zone in northern Iberia. Overall, our study strongly suggests that the common genet was intentionally introduced in southern Iberia at a time antedating the Muslim invasion, possibly via Phoenicians’ commercial routes. Subsequent introduction in France, long-term genetic drift and admixture likely shaped the species genetic variation currently observed in continental Europe.


Mediterranean Basin Viverridae Microsatellites Population genetics Tartessos Approximate Bayesian computation 



We thank the persons and institutions involved in the collecting of the genetic samples (see Gaubert et al. 2009, 2011). Lab work was funded by the European Commission 6th PCRDT “EPISARS” (FP6-2003-SSP-2-SARS; No. 51163). Three anonymous reviewers improved an earlier version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10530_2015_846_MOESM1_ESM.xls (100 kb)
Detailed list of the samples used in this study, together with their genotypes and mitochondrial sequences. Numbering of mitochondrial sequences (‘Hapx’) refer to haplotype combinations in Gaubert et al. (2011) (XLS 100 kb)
10530_2015_846_MOESM2_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Prior and posterior distributions of model parameters estimated for scenario 3 and two different population groupings (sets 1 and 2) from simulations using DIYABC. Historical parameters have been constrained as follows: t4>tb; N2>N2b; N4>N4b; t4>dk; t3>dj.(DOCX 16 kb)
10530_2015_846_MOESM3_ESM.docx (712 kb)
Principal component analysis of summary statistics of 600,000 simulated data sets generated with six demographic scenarios and two different population groupings (sets 1 and 2). Observed dataset (large yellow dot) is projected on the plane formed by the first two principal components. Above: set1; below: set2. (PDF 139 kb)
10530_2015_846_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (140 kb)
Geneland clustering analysis among populations of the common genet in the Mediterranean Basin (K=4). Clusters are the same as delineated by STRUCTURE. Circle in clusters 1 and 2 graphical representations show admixed populations detected in northwestern Iberia. (PDF 140 kb)
10530_2015_846_MOESM5_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Genetic differentiation (F ST ) among the geographic populations of the common genet. See Table 1 for population acronyms. (DOCX 16 kb)
10530_2015_846_MOESM6_ESM.docx (44 kb)
Graphical representation of the relative posterior probabilities of the six scenarios of introduction of the common genet in Europe calculated through a polychotomous logistic regression from the 0.1% of simulated data sets most closely resembling the observed data (direct method). Left: set1; right: set2. (DOCX 44 kb)
10530_2015_846_MOESM7_ESM.docx (129 kb)
Principal component analysis of summary statistics from 500 pseudo-observed datasets generated from the posterior predictive distribution of scenario 3 (large blue dots), plotted along with summary statistics of simulations generated from priors of scenario 3 (small blue dots). The observed dataset (large yellow dot) is projected on the plane formed by the first two principal components. Above: set1; below: set2. (DOCX 130 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Gaubert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Irene Del Cerro
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alejandro Centeno-Cuadros
    • 4
    • 8
  • Francisco Palomares
    • 2
  • Pascal Fournier
    • 5
  • Carlos Fonseca
    • 3
  • Jean-Paul Paillat
    • 6
  • José Antonio Godoy
    • 7
  1. 1.Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier (ISEM) – UM2-CNRS-IRDUniversité Montpellier 2Montpellier Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Department of Conservation BiologyEstación Biológica de Doñana - CSICSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Department of Biology, CESAMUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, Alexander Silberman Institute of Life SciencesHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  5. 5.GREGEVillandrautFrance
  6. 6.Les Naturalistes VendéensCentre BeautourLa Roche-sur-YonFrance
  7. 7.Department of Integrative EcologyEstación Biológica Doñana - CSICSevilleSpain
  8. 8.Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemical EngineeringUniversity Pablo de OlavideSevilleSpain

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