Did the lily beetle spread throughout its current range from its established base in Montreal? Or were multiple introductions from Europe responsible for the beetle’s present distribution? And where exactly in Europe did the North American populations originate from?
These are the questions that University of Montreal student Alessandro Dieni is addressing as his Master’s research topic. With the help of collaborators, Alessandro has obtained samples from throughout the North American and European ranges. Using a technique called AFLP (Amplified fragment length polymorphism), he will be able to detect differences and similarities among the populations. His preliminary results suggest that the populations from Montreal and Quebec City form one genetically similar group, distinct from the New Brunswick samples, pointing to the possibility of more than one invasion. Still to be determined is the European origin of the invasion, as the North American populations are quite distinct genetically from the Swedish and Swiss beetles he has analyzed.
Understanding invasion routes can help us pinpoint hotspots from which invaders tend to originate. These areas can then be targeted for increased surveillance of imported goods. Studies such as Alessandro’s can also provide valuable information to aide biological control efforts. Biocontrol agents imported from an invader’s region of origin share a coevolutionary history with the invader, and are expected to be better suited to attack their host.
We’ll look forward to hearing about the results of this important study!
This post is based on Alessandro’s essay published in Antennae, the Bulletin of the Quebec Entomological Society (Bulletin de la Société d’entomologie du Québec, 2013, vol. 20, no. 2, pp 3-6), which, in turn, was based on his poster, which won the Prix Melville-Duporte for the best scientific poster at the Society’s annual meeting.