What Can an Invasive Species Tell Us about Evolution? A Study of Dental Variation in Disjunctive Populations of Microtus rossiaemeridionalis (Arvicolinae, Rodentia)
Identifying routes of invasion is a critical management strategy in controlling the spread of invasive species. This is challenging however in the absence of direct evidence. Therefore, indirect methodologies are used to infer possible invasion sources and routes, such as comparisons of genetic and morphological data from populations from invasive ranges and putative source areas. The greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula) was first discovered in Ireland from skeletal remains in the pellets of birds of prey collected in 2007 and is it is now sufficiently established that the species has a detrimental impact on Ireland’s small mammal community. In this study, we address the uncertain origin(s) of the Irish population of C. russula. The cytochrome b gene of mitochondrial DNA was analysed from 143 individuals from throughout its range within a phylogenetic and approximate Bayesian computation framework. These analyses revealed that the Irish population stemmed from Europe as opposed to North Africa. Additionally, mandibles from 523 individuals from Ireland and 28 other European populations were subjected to multivariate and distance-based analyses, which demonstrated an association between the Irish population and those in France, Switzerland and Belgium. When the genetic and morphological analyses were considered together, an origin stemming from France was deemed the most likely scenario for the source of the invasive Irish population. This study has demonstrated the importance of utilising a multidisciplinary approach when attempting to identify the origins and invasion routes of invasive species.