Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Genetic traces of historical human‐mediated dispersal of feral cats

Endemic species on islands are highly susceptible to local extinction, in particular if they are exposed to invasive species. Invasive predators, such as feral cats, have been introduced to islands around the world, causing major losses in local biodiversity. In order to control and manage invasive species successfully, information about source populations and level of gene flow is essential. Here, we investigate the origin of feral cats of Hawaiian and Australian islands to verify their European ancestry and a potential pattern of isolation by distance. We analyzed the genetic structure and diversity of feral cats from eleven islands as well as samples from Malaysia and Europe using mitochondrial DNA (ND5 and ND6 regions) and microsatellite DNA data. Our results suggest an overall European origin of Hawaiian cats with no pattern of isolation by distance between Australian, Malaysian, and Hawaiian populations. Instead, we found low levels of genetic differentiation between samples from Tasman Island, Lana'i, Kaho'olawe, Cocos (Keeling) Island, and Asia. As these populations are separated by up to 10,000 kilometers, we assume an extensive passive dispersal event along global maritime trade routes in the beginning of the 19th century, connecting Australian, Asian, and Hawaiian islands. Thus, islands populations, which are characterized by low levels of current gene flow, represent valuable sources of information on historical, human-mediated global dispersal patterns of feral cats.

Map of the world representing the main route (Golden Round) used by maritime fur trade (black lines). Boxes show sampling locations in Australia, Hawaii, and South-East Asia with bars indicating graphical output from STRUCTURE analysis for K = 5. Each individual cat is represented by a single vertical line in population's subset plots, which were assigned to their place of origin.

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