Invasive species can't cover their tracks: Using microsatellites to assist management of starling (Sturnus vulgaris) populations in Western Australia

Lee Ann Rollins, Andrew P. Woolnough, Alan N. Wilton, Ron Sinclair, William B. Sherwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Invasive species are known to cause environmental and economic damage, requiring management by control agencies worldwide. These species often become well established in new environments long before their detection, resulting in a lack of knowledge regarding their history and dynamics. When new invasions are discovered, information regarding the source and pathway of the invasion, and the degree of connectivity with other populations can greatly benefit management strategies. Here we use invasive common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) populations from Australia to demonstrate that genetic techniques can provide this information to aid management, even when applied to highly vagile species over continental scales. Analysis of data from 11 microsatellites in 662 individuals sampled at 17 localities across their introduced range in Australia revealed four populations. One population consisted of all sampling sites from the expansion front in Western Australia, where control efforts are focused. Despite evidence of genetic exchange over both contemporary and historical timescales, gene flow is low between this population and all three more easterly populations. This suggests that localized control of starlings on the expansion front may be an achievable goal and the long-standing practice of targeting select proximal eastern source populations may be ineffective on its own. However, even with low levels of gene flow, successful control of starlings on the expansion front will require vigilance, and genetic monitoring of this population can provide essential information to managers. The techniques used here are broadly applicable to invasive populations worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1560-1573
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Volume18
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009

Keywords

  • Assignment programmes
  • Invasive species
  • Microsatellites
  • Museum samples
  • Sturnus vulgaris

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