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1 April 2008 Molecular Confirmation of the Origin and Invasive Status of West Indian Raccoons
Kristofer M. Helgen, Jesús E. Maldonado, Don E. Wilson, Sandra D. Buckner
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Raccoons occur on a number of islands in the Bahamas and the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. Zooarcheological studies have long suggested that these animals are not native to the West Indies. Originally, Caribbean populations were described as endemic insular species Procyon maynardi (Bahamas), P. minor (Guadeloupe), and P. gloveralleni (Barbados), a classification that was recognized throughout much of the 20th century. More recently, studies of qualitative morphology and a review of historical publications and documents have been used to bolster arguments that these populations of raccoons are not unique species worthy of special conservation attention, but invasive populations of the North American raccoon (P. lotor) introduced in recent centuries. Raccoons in the Bahamas and the French Antilles appear to be spreading onto other islands with human assistance, but the population on Barbados is now apparently extinct. We present evidence from the mitochondrial control region, including sequence data from the extinct population on Barbados generated using ancient DNA protocols, indicating that all 3 major insular populations of West Indian raccoons are conspecific with P. lotor and probably originated via recent translocations from eastern North America. Like nonnative populations of raccoons that have been established elsewhere (e.g., in Alaska, Japan, and Europe), the raccoons of the West Indies deserve no special taxonomic recognition or conservation status. They may be destructive to native wildlife on West Indian islands where they have been introduced, particularly if their spread to and across other islands continues.

Kristofer M. Helgen, Jesús E. Maldonado, Don E. Wilson, and Sandra D. Buckner "Molecular Confirmation of the Origin and Invasive Status of West Indian Raccoons," Journal of Mammalogy 89(2), 282-291, (1 April 2008).
Accepted: 1 September 2007; Published: 1 April 2008

ancient DNA
invasive species
island biogeography
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