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The limits of mtDNA analysis for determining the provenance of invasive species: a midwife toad example

journal contribution
posted on 2022-11-30, 07:02 authored by Chris Vliegenthart, Maurits van de Vrede, Ingrid den Boer, Maarten J. Gilbert, Pim Lemmers, James France, Manon C. de Visser, Richard P.J.H. Struijk, Ben Wielstra

For most if not all European herpetofauna, range-wide mtDNA phylogeographies have been published. This facilitates establishing the provenance of introduced populations. However, precision is contingent on the spatial genetic structure across the range of the taxon under study and, in particular, from where within that range the introduction was sourced. In the Netherlands, the common midwife toad, Alytes obstetricans, only naturally occurs in the extreme southeast and is on the decline there. Yet, introduced populations thrive elsewhere in the country. We use mtDNA analysis to try to determine the origin of two introduced populations along the Dutch coast, in the city of The Hague and the dune area Meijendel. We compiled a database of hundreds of individuals from throughout the distribution range and added over 130 individuals from both native and introduced populations from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The mtDNA haplotypes found in the introduced populations are associated with postglacial expansion. The main haplotype predominates in the natural range in the Netherlands, but also occurs much more widely across western Europe, north of the Pyrenees. A closely related haplotype, newly identified from The Hague, was not found in the native Netherlands range, suggesting an origin from abroad. The combination of low phylogeographic resolution and low sampling density in the postglacially colonized part of the range hampers our ability to determine the provenance of the introduced A. obstetricans populations.