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Global invasion history of the Mediterranean recluse spider: a concordance with human expansion

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The dispersal of modern humans from their African origins to the rest of the occupied world is a topic of lively debate centering principally on single versus multiple dispersals. The Mediterranean recluse spider Loxosceles rufescens, a significant pest, has gained much of its current distribution through commensalism with humans. Therefore, the matrilineal history of this spider should reflect dispersal patterns of human females. Here, an assessment of genetic variation at mitochondrial markers in 347 colonies of L. rufescens from 104 geographic sites worldwide reveals a north African origin of the global populations of L. rufescens. This involves at least three separate events among which two involve coincidental dispersals, including one to north Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia and the other to north Africa, Europe, and Asia only. North African L. rufescens appear to have expanded initially into Israel and subsequently spread into Greece, where a subset of these populations went eastward into Iran and southeastern Asia. This corresponds to the modern human southern dispersal theory. Chinese populations appear to have expanded approximately 42 710–46 008 yr ago. The initial split between the Greek and Chinese populations dates to 41 412–44 444 yr ago, which coincides with the expansion of modern humans into Southeast and East Asia. Thus, the matrilineal history of Asian L. rufescens tracks the history of human dispersals over tens of thousands of years.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2015

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