Genetic Characterization of an Invasive Boa constrictor Population on the Caribbean Island of Aruba

Boa constrictor was first documented on the Caribbean island of Aruba in 1999. Despite intensive efforts to eradicate the snake from the island, B. constrictor has established a stable, reproductively successful population on Aruba. We generated mitochondrial sequence and multilocus microsatellite data for individuals from this population to characterize the origins and means of introduction to the island. Phylogenetic analyses and measures of genetic diversity for this population were compared with those for invasive B. constrictor imperator from Cozumel and B. constrictor constrictor from Puerto Rico. Cozumel populations of B. c. imperator had significantly higher number of alleles and significantly higher values for FIS than the Puerto Rico and Aruba populations. Observed, expected, and Nei's unbiased heterozygosities, as well as effective number of alleles, were not significantly different. The effective population sizes from Aruba and Puerto Rico were generally lower than those for either of the Cozumel populations; however, there were broad confidence intervals associated with published estimates. We conclude that the present B. constrictor population on Aruba probably was not established from the introduction of a single gravid or parthenogenic female but instead most likely resulted from the release or escape of a small number of unrelated captive snakes. This study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting the ease with which a small number of relatively slow-maturing B. constrictor can quickly invade, become established, and avoid eradication efforts in a new location with suitable habitat.

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