Hierarchical genetic analysis of German cockroach (Blattella germanica) populations from within buildings to across continents.
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Understanding the population structure of species that disperse primarily by human transport is essential to predicting and controlling human-mediated spread of invasive species. The German cockroach (Blattella germanica) is a widespread urban invader that can actively disperse within buildings but is spread solely by human-mediated dispersal over longer distances; however, its population structure is poorly understood. Using microsatellite markers we investigated population structure at several spatial scales, from populations within single apartment buildings to populations from several cities across the U.S. and Eurasia. Both traditional measures of genetic differentiation and Bayesian clustering methods revealed increasing levels of genetic differentiation at greater geographic scales. Our results are consistent with active dispersal of cockroaches largely limited to movement within a building. Their low levels of genetic differentiation, yet limited active spread between buildings, suggests a greater likelihood of human-mediated dispersal at more local scales (within a city) than at larger spatial scales (within and between continents). About half the populations from across the U.S. clustered together with other U.S. populations, and isolation by distance was evident across the U.S. Levels of genetic differentiation among Eurasian cities were greater than those in the U.S. and greater than those between the U.S. and Eurasia, but no clear pattern of structure at the continent level was detected. MtDNA sequence variation was low and failed to reveal any geographical structure. The weak genetic structure detected here is likely due to a combination of historical admixture among populations and periodic population bottlenecks and founder events, but more extensive studies are needed to determine whether signatures of global movement may be present in this species.