Cryptic introductions and the interpretation of island biodiversity

Julian D. Avery, Dina M. Fonseca, Pascal Campagne, Julie L. Lockwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Species with cryptic origins (i.e. those that cannot be reliably classed as native or non-native) present a particular challenge to our understanding of the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. Such species may be especially common on islands given that some islands have had a relatively recent history of human settlement. It is likely that select island species considered native might have achieved their current distributions via direct or indirect human actions. As an example, we explore the origins of eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis bermudensis) on the island of Bermuda. Considered native to the island and a distinct subspecies, this population has diverged in morphology relative to mainland North America. Using microsatellite markers and simulation of island colonization, we show that the Bermuda population of bluebirds is the likely result of a single colonization event that occurred during the 1600s, making this a cryptic invader. To our knowledge, this is one of the youngest examples of a terrestrial vertebrate cryptic invader. We suggest that the eastern bluebird is not an isolated case of cryptic invader on either Bermuda or elsewhere and that caution be exercised when studying present-day distributions of organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2313-2324
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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