Population genetic methods are widely used to retrace the introduction routes of invasive species. The unsupervised Bayesian clustering algorithm implemented in STRUCTURE is amongst the most frequently used of these methods, but its ability to provide reliable information about introduction routes has never been assessed. We simulated microsatellite datasets to evaluate the extent to which the results provided by STRUCTURE were misleading for the inference of introduction routes. We focused on an invasion scenario involving one native and two independently introduced populations, because it is the sole scenario that can be rejected when obtaining a particular clustering with a STRUCTURE analysis at K = 2 (two clusters). Results were classified as “misleading” or “non-misleading”. We investigated the influence of effective size, bottleneck severity and number of loci on the type and frequency of misleading results. We showed that misleading STRUCTURE results were obtained for 10% of all simulated datasets. Our results highlighted two categories of misleading output. The first occurs when the native population has a low level of diversity. In this case, the two introduced populations may be very similar, despite their independent introduction histories. The second category results from convergence issues in STRUCTURE for K = 2, with strong bottleneck severity and/or large numbers of loci resulting in high levels of differentiation between the three populations. Overall, the risk of being misled by STRUCTURE in the context of introduction routes inferences is moderate, but it is important to remain cautious when low genetic diversity or genuine multimodality between runs are involved.
Invasive species, Population genetics
Lombaert, E., Guillemaud, T., and Deleury, E. (2018). Biases of STRUCTURE software when exploring introduction routes of invasive species. Heredity 120, 485–499. DOI: 10.1038/s41437-017-0042-1