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Mol Ecol. 2006 Jan;15(1):263-75.

Molecular evidence for a founder effect in invasive house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) populations experiencing an emergent disease epidemic.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


The impact of founder events on levels of genetic variation in natural populations remains a topic of significant interest. Well-documented introductions provide a valuable opportunity to examine how founder events influence genetic diversity in invasive species. House finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) are passerine birds native to western North America, with the large eastern North American population derived from a small number of captive individuals released in the 1940s. Previous comparisons using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers found equivalent levels of diversity in eastern and western populations, suggesting that any genetic effects of the founder event were ameliorated by the rapid growth of the newly established population. We used an alternative marker system, 10 highly polymorphic microsatellites, to compare levels of genetic diversity between four native and five introduced house finch populations. In contrast to the AFLP comparisons, we found significantly lower allelic richness and heterozygosity in introduced populations across all loci. Three out of five introduced populations showed significant reductions in the ratio of the number of alleles to the allele size range, a within-population characteristic of recent bottlenecks. Finally, native and introduced populations showed significant pairwise differences in allele frequencies in every case, with stronger isolation by distance within the introduced than native range. Overall, our results provide compelling molecular evidence for a founder effect during the introduction of eastern house finches that reduced diversity levels at polymorphic microsatellite loci and may have contributed to the emergence of the Mycoplasma epidemic which recently swept the eastern range of this species.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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