Biological Invasions

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 103–115 | Cite as

History of aquatic invertebrate invasions in the Caspian Sea

  • Igor A. GrigorovichEmail author
  • Thomas W. Therriault
  • Hugh J. MacIsaac


Incorporation of the fossil record and molecular markers into studies of biological invasions provides new historical perspectives on the incidence of natural and human-mediated invasions of nonindigenous species (NIS). Palaeontological, phylogeographic, and molecular evidence suggests that the natural, multiple colonizations of the Caspian basin via transient connections with the Black Sea and other basins played an important role in shaping the diversity of Caspian fauna. Geographically isolated, conspecific Ponto-Caspian lineages that currently inhabit fragmented habitats in the Ponto-Caspian region show limited genetic divergence, implying geologically recent episodes of gene flow between populations during the Pliocene to Pleistocene. Several molluscan lineages in the Caspian Sea may have descended from Lake Pannon stock before the Late Miocene isolation of the Caspian depression, about 5.8 million years ago. Anthropogenic activities during the 20th century were responsible for a 1800-fold increase in the rate of establishment of new aquatic species in the Caspian Sea compared to the preceding two million years of natural colonization. The observed success of NIS invasions during the 20th century was due primarily to human-mediated transport mechanisms, which were dominated by shipping activities (44%). Human-mediated species transfer has been strongly asymmetrical, toward the Volga Delta and Caspian Sea from or through Black and Azov Seas. Global and regional trade, particularly that mediated by commercial ships, provides dispersal opportunities for nonindigenous invertebrates, indicating that future invasions in the Caspian Sea are anticipated.

interchange invasion molecular clock nonindigenous species palaeogeography Ponto-Caspian stocking 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Igor A. Grigorovich
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas W. Therriault
    • 1
  • Hugh J. MacIsaac
    • 1
  1. 1.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsor, OntarioCanada

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