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Date of Original Version



Biological Sciences


Human-mediated dispersal has reshaped distribution patterns and biogeographic relationships for many taxa. Long-distance and over-water dispersal were historically rare events for most species, but now human activities can move organisms quickly over long distances to new places. A potential consequence of human-mediated dispersal is the eventual reintroduction of individuals from an invasive population back into their native range; a dimension of biological invasion termed “cryptic back-introduction.” We investigated whether this phenomenon was occurring in the Cayman Islands where brown anole lizards (Anolis sagrei) with red dewlaps (i.e., throat fans), either native to Little Cayman or invasive on Grand Cayman, have been found on Cayman Brac where the native A. sagrei have yellow dewlaps. Our analysis of microsatellite data shows strong population-genetic structure among the three Cayman Islands, but also evidence for non-equilibrium. We found some instances of intermediate multilocus genotypes (possibly 3–9% of individuals), particularly between Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Furthermore, analysis of dewlap reflectance data classified six males sampled on Cayman Brac as having red dewlaps similar to lizards from Grand Cayman and Little Cayman. Lastly, one individual from Cayman Brac had an intermediate microsatellite genotype, a red dewlap, and a mtDNA haplotype from Grand Cayman. This mismatch among genetic and phenotypic data strongly suggests that invasive A. sagrei from Grand Cayman are interbreeding with native A. sagrei on Cayman Brac. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence of cryptic back-introduction. Although we demonstrate this phenomenon is occurring in the Cayman Islands, assessing its frequency there and prevalence in other systems may prove difficult due to the need for genetic data in most instances. Cryptic back-introductions may eventually provide some insight into how lineages are changed by the invasion process and may be an underappreciated way in which invasive species impact native biodiversity.

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