Cryptic invasion of Italian pool frogs (Pelophylax bergeri) across Western Europe unraveled by multilocus phylogeography


Human introductions of exotic amphibians can have catastrophic effects on native species. However, they usually remain unnoticed without genetic tools when species are difficult to distinguish morphologically. In Western Europe, pool frogs (Pelophylax sp.) make a worrisome case: recent genetic data showed the presence of Italian (Pelophylax bergeri) mtDNA haplotypes within the range of the threatened European Pelophylax lessonae, two morphologically similar taxa. Here we conduct a multilocus phylogeographic and population genetic survey of European and Italian pool frogs (combining present and historic samples), to investigate the origin(s) and consequences of potential introductions. Results are unequivocal: we show that the alien P. bergeri have extensively invaded France and north-Alpine Switzerland, and have also deeply introgressed with P. lessonae, which has led to the complete replacement of most populations. Alien specimens have probably been translocated multiple times from Central Italy at least prior to the 1960s. Based on our dense sampling, only two areas, north and south of the Alps still host native pool frogs in Switzerland, the Joux Valley near the French border and the canton of Ticino, respectively. Importantly, we show that these last P. lessonae populations are remnants of a private genetic diversity specific to Western Europe, which vanished during the P. bergeri’s invasion. Our study emphasizes the risk of genetic pollution during invasion by human-introduced taxa and brings alarming concern regarding uncontrolled amphibian translocations. Moreover, it demonstrates the necessity for genetic surveys to detect and monitor these invasions, especially where species determination is problematic.

DOI: 10.1007/s10530-016-1359-z

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@article{Dufresnes2016CrypticIO, title={Cryptic invasion of Italian pool frogs (Pelophylax bergeri) across Western Europe unraveled by multilocus phylogeography}, author={Christophe Dufresnes and Lionel Di Santo and Julien Leuenberger and Johan Schuerch and Glib Mazepa and Nathalie Grandjean and Daniele Canestrelli and Nicolas Perrin and Sylvain Dubey}, journal={Biological Invasions}, year={2016}, volume={19}, pages={1407-1420} }