Molecular Ecology of Introduced Species in South Africa: The bud gall-forming wasp Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae and the Argentine ant Linepithema humile
Lado, Thomas F.
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Introduced species displace native species and alter ecological communities, affect agriculture as well as human health and are economically costly to eradicate. Long term monitoring of introduced species including the documentation of levels of genetic variation is therefore of the utmost importance. This study investigated the distribution of genetic variation in two introduced species distributed across South Africa the bud gall-forming wasp Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae and the Argentine ant Linepithema humile. The bud gall-forming wasp was introduced into South Africa as a biological control agent to curb the spread of the invasive long-leaved wattle Acacia longifolia. In addition to the intended (target) host, the bud gall-forming wasp has also colonised A. floribunda, a noninvasive ornamental plant. Limited genetic variation was found across South Africa based on the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene. Only 3 haplotypes characterized 53 individuals collected from 23 localities (nucleotide diversity π = 0.002 ± 0.001, haplotype diversity h = 0.482 ± 0.045). No significant partitioning of genetic variation was found across South Africa including between host plants (target host = A. longifolia, non target host = A. floribunda) or between the core (sites of introduction) and edge (naturally dispersed) sites (ST = 0.094, P = 0.288). The limited genetic variation and the absence of significant genetic structure are congruent with patterns described for many other introduced species and may suggest that propagule pressure plays only a minor role in species establishment and spread of the gall-forming wasp across South Africa.