We generated mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence data from 402 individuals of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta collected from 11 native populations and analyzed these data using a combination of demographic, phylogenetic, and phylogeographic methods to infer features of the evolutionary history of this species. Prior expectations regarding high levels of genetic structure and isolation by distance among populations were supported by the data, but we also discovered several unanticipated patterns. Our analyses revealed a major genetic break between S. invicta mtDNA haplotypes that coincides with the Mesopotamia wetlands region of South America, resulting in two higher level nested clade groupings. In addition, we identified contrasting patterns of genetic differentiation within these two major groups, which may reflect differences in connectivity of suitable habitat in different parts of the native range of S. invicta. Our study represents the first attempt to understand the phylogeographic history of S. invicta across its native range.
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Vol. 59 • No. 8