Phylogeography of Rattus norvegicus in the South Atlantic Ocean

Melanie Hingston*, Sally Poncet, Ken Passfield, Michael A. Tabak, Sofia I. Gabriel, Stuart B. Piertney, James C. Russell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Norway rats are a globally distributed invasive species, which have colonized many islands around the world, including in the South Atlantic Ocean. We investigated the phylogeography of Norway rats across the South Atlantic Ocean and bordering continental countries. We identified haplotypes from 517 bp of the hypervariable region I of the mitochondrial D-loop and constructed a Bayesian consensus tree and median-joining network incorporating all other publicly available haplotypes via an alignment of 364 bp. Three Norway rat haplotypes are present across the islands of the South Atlantic Ocean, including multiple haplotypes separated by geographic barriers within island groups. All three haplotypes have been previously recorded from European countries. Our results support the hypothesis of rapid Norway rat colonization of South Atlantic Ocean islands by sea-faring European nations from multiple European ports of origin. This seems to have been the predominant pathway for repeated Norway rat invasions of islands, even within the same archipelago, rather than within-island dispersal across geographic barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
JournalDifferentiation: Research in Biological Diversity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding for sample collection was provided by the Shackleton Scholarship Fund, Antarctic Research Trust, the Wyoming Biodiversity Institute, PVE/CAPES (Proposal 235453) and Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/88854/2012). Thanks to Martin Collins, Andy Black, Darren Christie and the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands for the provision of samples from South Georgia, Annalea Beard for providing the rat sample from St Helena Island, Joaquim Tapisso, Rita Monarca and Ana Cerveira for samples from Portugal, and Emily Puckett for help validating South American SNP haplotypes. Funding for DNA sequencing was provided by Island LandCare, the University of Auckland. Thanks to two anonymous reviewers for the constructive comments.


  • Commensals
  • Invasive species
  • Island phylogeography
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Pest management
  • Rattus norvegicus
  • South Atlantic


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