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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Oct 7;275(1648):2231-40. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0412.

Estimation of the number of founders of an invasive pest insect population: the fire ant Solenopsis invicta in the USA.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA. kenross@uga.edu

Abstract

Determination of the number of founders responsible for the establishment of invasive populations is important for developing biologically based management practices, predicting the invasive potential of species, and making inferences about ecological and evolutionary processes. The fire ant Solenopsis invicta is a major invasive pest insect first introduced into the USA from its native South American range in the mid-1930s. We use data from diverse genetic markers surveyed in the source population and the USA to estimate the number of founders of this introduced population. Data from different classes of nuclear markers (microsatellites, allozymes, sex-determination locus) and mitochondrial DNA are largely congruent in suggesting that 9-20 unrelated mated queens comprised the initial founder group to colonize the USA at Mobile, Alabama. Estimates of founder group size based on expanded samples from throughout the southern USA were marginally higher than this, consistent with the hypothesis of one or more secondary introductions of the ant into the USA. The rapid spread and massive population build-up of introduced S. invicta occurred despite the loss of substantial genetic variation associated with the relatively small invasive propagule size, a pattern especially surprising in light of the substantial genetic load imposed by the loss of variation at the sex-determination locus.

PMID:
18577505
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2603238
Free PMC Article
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