Introgressive replacement of natives by invading Arion pest slugs

Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 2;7(1):14908. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14619-y.


Hybridization with invasive species is one of the major threats to the phenotypic and genetic persistence of native organisms worldwide. Arion vulgaris (syn. lusitanicus) is a major agricultural pest slug that successfully invaded many European countries in recent decades, but its impact on closely related native species remains unclear. Here, we hypothesized that the regional decline of native A. rufus is connected with the spread of invasive A. vulgaris, and tested whether this can be linked to hybridization between the two species by analyzing 625 Arion sp. along altitudinal transects in three regions in Switzerland. In each region, we observed clear evidence of different degrees of genetic admixture, suggesting recurrent hybridization beyond the first generation. We found spatial differences in admixture patterns that might reflect distinct invasion histories among the regions. Our analyses provide a landscape level perspective for the genetic interactions between invasive and native animals during the invasion. We predict that without specific management action, A. vulgaris will further expand its range, which might lead to local extinction of A. rufus and other native slugs in the near future. Similar processes are likely occurring in other regions currently invaded by A. vulgaris.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Endangered Species*
  • Gastropoda / genetics*
  • Gastropoda / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Introduced Species*
  • Switzerland


  • DNA, Mitochondrial