Phylogeographic past and invasive presence of Arion pest slugs in Europe

Zemanova, Miriam Andela; Knop, Eva; Heckel, Gerald (2016). Phylogeographic past and invasive presence of Arion pest slugs in Europe. Molecular Ecology, 25(22), pp. 5747-5764. Wiley-Blackwell 10.1111/mec.13860

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Arion vulgaris (syn. A. lusitanicus) is the most destructive pest slug in Europe. The species has been regarded a classic case of an ongoing biological invasion with negative economic and ecological impact in many European countries, but this status has recently been contested. In this study, we assessed mitochondrial and autosomal genetic diversity in populations of A. vulgaris across the entire distribution range in order to characterize its evolutionary history. Mitochondrial diversity in A. vulgaris was strongly reduced compared with the closely related and largely codistributed noninvasive species A. rufus and A. ater, indicating a very rapid spread of A. vulgaris through Europe. Autosomal diversity assessed in 632 individuals from 32 populations decreased towards eastern and northern Europe which is consistent with the reported expansion of the species towards these regions in the last decades. Demographic simulations supported very recent population founding events in most of the European range. The short periods between the first detection of A. vulgaris in different countries and only a very weak association of genetic structuring among populations with geographical distances suggest a human contribution in the ongoing expansion of the slug. We propose that this contribution may ultimately prevent the exact localization of the debated region of origin of A. vulgaris. However, the reclassification of A. vulgaris as noninvasive would be premature. Without counter measures, the Eastern and Northern European countries can expect to see this biological invasion continued in the future.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Zemanova, Miriam Andela; Knop, Eva and Heckel, Gerald


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology








Alexander Strauss

Date Deposited:

11 Oct 2017 14:39

Last Modified:

11 Oct 2017 14:39

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Arion ater; Arion lusitanicus; Arion rufus; Arion vulgaris; biological invasion; invasive species; microsatellites; molluscs




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