Transposable elements and introgression introduce genetic variation in the invasive ant Cardiocondyla obscurior


  • M. Errbii
  • J. Keilwagen
  • K.J. Hoff
  • R. Steffen
  • J. Altmüller
  • J. Oettler
  • L. Schrader


  • Molecular Ecology


  • Mol Ecol 30 (23): 6211-6228


  • Introduced populations of invasive organisms cope with novel environmental challenges, while having reduced genetic variation caused by founder effects. The mechanisms associated with this "genetic paradox of invasive species" has received considerable attention, yet few studies have examined the genomic architecture of invasive species. Populations of the heart node ant Cardiocondyla obscurior belong to two distinct lineages, a New World lineage so far only found in Latin America and a more globally distributed Old World lineage. In the present study, we use population genomic approaches to compare populations of the two lineages with apparent divergent invasive potential. We find, that the strong genetic differentiation of the two lineages began at least 40,000 generations ago and that activity of transposable elements (TEs) contributes significantly to the divergence of both lineages, possibly linked to the very unusual genomic distribution of TEs in this species. Further, we show that introgression from the Old World lineage is a dominant source of genetic diversity in the New World lineage, despite the lineages' strong genetic differentiation. Our study uncovers mechanisms underlying novel genetic variation in introduced populations of C. obscurior that could contribute to the species' adaptive potential.