Can genetic data confirm or refute historical records? The island invasion of the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus)

Arijana Barun, Matthew L. Niemiller, Benjamin M. Fitzpatrick, James A. Fordyce, Daniel Simberloff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many studies aimed at reconstructing the invasion history of a species rely, in part, on inferences based on patterns of genetic variation. These inferences warrant careful interpretation, however. In particular, given the time scale of most invasions, the typical demography of invasive species in their invaded range, and the available molecular tools, the underlying assumptions of population genetic models will often be violated. Given this fact, we examined the potential of population genetic data for reconstructing the history of serial introductions of the small Indian mongoose, Herpestes auropunctatus. We used simulations to test the power of existing microsatellite data for testing the credibility of historical introduction records. Although our results are generally consistent with most historical records for H. auropunctatus, the existing data have low power to reject alternative historical hypotheses. Simulations of a wide range of founder population sizes show broadly overlapping results, making rather different historical scenarios of introductions difficult to rule out with typical datasets. We advocate caution in the use of molecular population genetics to infer the history of invasive species, and we suggest extensive simulations as a tool to evaluate, in advance, this approach for addressing important research questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2243-2251
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Forensic phylogeography
  • Founder size
  • Introduced populations
  • Invasive species
  • Island colonization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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