Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2016) 119, 748-765
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Black rat invasion of inland Sahel: insights from interviews and population genetics in south-western Niger
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 119 (4), 748-765
Abstract: Human population migrations, as well as long-distance trade activities, have been responsible for the spread of many invasive organisms. The black rat, Rattus rattus, has colonized most of the world following ship-mediated trade. Owing to its tight association with human infrastructures, this species has been able to survive in unfavourable environments, such as Sahelian Africa. In this work, we combined interview-based and population genetic surveys to investigate the processes underlying the ongoing invasion of south-western Niger by black rats, with special emphasis on the capital city, Niamey. Our trapping and interview data are quite congruent, and all together point towards a patchy, but rather widespread, current distribution of R. rattus. Genetic data strongly suggest that road network development for truck-based commercial flow from/to international harbours located in neighbouring countries (Benin, Togo, and Nigeria) facilitates the passive dispersal of black rats over a long distance through unfavourable landscapes. Another potentially, more ancient, invasion route may be associated with boat transport along the Niger River. Human-mediated dispersal thus probably allows the foundation of persisting populations within highly anthropized areas while population dynamics may be more unstable in remote areas and mostly depends on propagule pressure.
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Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
population dynamics/ epidemiology
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