Spatial mixing of mitochondrial lineages and greater genetic diversity in some invasive populations of the American mink (Neovison vison) compared to native populations
The genetic characteristics of introduced populations have a relevant impact on their ability to establish and spread. The American mink (Neovison vison), native to North America, is an important invasive species in the Iberian Peninsula. Here, we used mitochondrial DNA sequences data to investigate the genetic diversity and phylogeographic structure of invasive versus native populations of this species. We also evaluated whether genetic diversity in invasive populations could be explained by the genetic characteristics of the native sources from which they derived. Phylogenetic analysis revealed two major lineages in the native range, which indicated a clear separation between western and eastern populations. On the contrary, we found no evidence of genetic structure in the invasive range. This was probably the result of the diverse origins of the released specimens and the rapid expansion and encounters of the introduced populations. We detected spatial mixing of both North American lineages in several sampling localities of the north central area of the Iberian Peninsula, giving rise to high levels of genetic diversity in some areas compared to North American populations. This could potentially lead to higher fitness of these individuals and thus increase the population viability and invasiveness of this species. These results point to the need to better study the populations in which lineages mix and, if necessary, intensify control efforts in them.