Invasive species provide opportunities for investigating evolutionary aspects of colonization processes, including initial foundations of populations and geographic expansion. Using microsatellite markers and historical information, we characterized the genetic patterns of the invasion of the western corn rootworm (WCR), a pest of corn crops, in its largest area of expansion in Europe: Central and South-Eastern (CSE) Europe. We found that the invaded area probably corresponds to a single expanding population resulting from a single introduction of WCR and that gene flow is geographically limited within the population. In contrast to what is expected in classical colonization processes, an increase in genetic variation was observed from the center to the edge of the outbreak. Control measures against WCR at the center of the outbreak may have decreased effective population size in this area which could explain this observed pattern of genetic variation. We also found that small remote outbreaks in southern Germany and north-eastern Italy most likely originated from long-distance dispersal events from CSE Europe. We conclude that the large European outbreak is expanding by stratified dispersal, involving both continuous diffusion and discontinuous long-distance dispersal. This latter mode of dispersal may accelerate the expansion of WCR in Europe in the future.
- Invasive species
- Long-distance dispersal
- Range expansion
- Spatial genetic pattern
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)