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Contrasting Genetic Diversity of European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) Across Three Invasive Continental Distributions
  • Louise Bodt,
  • Lee Rollins ,
  • Julia Zichello
Louise Bodt
American Museum of Natural History

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Lee Rollins
University of New South Wales
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Julia Zichello
American Museum of Natural History
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European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) represent one of the most widespread and problematic avian invasive species in the world. Therefore, understanding their unique population history and current population dynamics can contribute to conservation efforts and clarify evolutionary processes over short timescales. European starlings were introduced to Central Park, New York in 1890, and from a founding group of about 100 birds, they have expanded across North America with a current population of approximately 200 million. There were also multiple introductions in Australia in the mid-19th century, and at least one introduction in South Africa in the late 19th century. These three independent introductions provide a robust evolutionary system to further understand invasion genetics. In this study, we compare mitochondrial diversity in European starlings from North America, Australia and South Africa, and a portion of the native-range in the United Kingdom. Of the three invasive ranges, the North American population shows the highest haplotype diversity and evidence of both sudden demographic expansion and current expansion. Comparatively, the Australian population shows the highest nucleotide diversity, and only evidence for sudden demographic expansion. We find no evidence of population structure in North America or South Africa, and three distinct haplogroups in the Australian population. Interestingly, none of the invasive ranges share any haplotypes with each other. The only shared haplotypes occur between the native-range and either North America or Australia. This suggests these three invasive populations represent independent subsamples of the vast diversity of the native range, and that novel haplotypes unique to each population may have emerged since introduction.
13 Feb 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
18 Feb 2020Submission Checks Completed
18 Feb 2020Assigned to Editor
21 Feb 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
06 Mar 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
26 Mar 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
30 Jun 20201st Revision Received
01 Jul 2020Submission Checks Completed
01 Jul 2020Assigned to Editor
01 Jul 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
02 Jul 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
20 Jul 2020Editorial Decision: Accept