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Historical museum samples enable the examination of divergent and parallel evolution during invasion

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022 The Authors. Molecular Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. During the Anthropocene, Earth has experienced unprecedented habitat loss, native species decline and global climate change. Concurrently, greater globalization is facilitating species movement, increasing the likelihood of alien species establishment and propagation. There is a great need to understand what influences a species’ ability to persist or perish within a new or changing environment. Examining genes that may be associated with a species’ invasion success or persistence informs invasive species management, assists with native species preservation and sheds light on important evolutionary mechanisms that occur in novel environments. This approach can be aided by coupling spatial and temporal investigations of evolutionary processes. Here we use the common starling, Sturnus vulgaris, to identify parallel and divergent evolutionary change between contemporary native and invasive range samples and their common ancestral population. To do this, we use reduced-representation sequencing of native samples collected recently in northwestern Europe and invasive samples from Australia, together with museum specimens sampled in the UK during the mid-19th century. We found evidence of parallel selection on both continents, possibly resulting from common global selective forces such as exposure to pollutants. We also identified divergent selection in these populations, which might be related to adaptive changes in response to the novel environment encountered in the introduced Australian range. Interestingly, signatures of selection are equally as common within both invasive and native range contemporary samples. Our results demonstrate the value of including historical samples in genetic studies of invasion and highlight the ongoing and occasionally parallel role of adaptation in both native and invasive ranges.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stuart KC, Sherwin WB, Austin JJ, Bateson M, Eens M, Brandley MC, Rollins LA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Molecular Ecology

Year: 2022

Volume: 31

Issue: 6

Pages: 1836-1852

Print publication date: 01/03/2022

Online publication date: 17/01/2022

Acceptance date: 07/01/2022

Date deposited: 07/03/2022

ISSN (print): 0962-1083

ISSN (electronic): 1365-294X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/mec.16353


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Funder referenceFunder name
Equity Trustees Charitable Foundation (Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment)