Invasion genetics of marsh frogs in Switzerland

Eurasian Marsh Frog credit Christoph Bühler

The marsh frog is the number one amphibian invader in Western Europe. In Switzerland, marsh frogs were introduced in the 1950–1960s and progressively colonized most of the northern parts of the country. In a new study, we investigated this invasion using molecular tools. We mapped the cryptic presence of three monophyletic mitochondrial lineages (Pelophylax ridibundus, Pelophylax kurtmuelleri, and Pelophylax cf. bedriagae from southeastern Europe) consistent with registered importations by a local frog-leg industry. High nuclear diversity supports that invasive frogs probably originated from genetically rich import batches, and patterns of population differentiation confirm that multiple independent introduction sites were involved. Moreover, several lines of evidence suggest occasional hybridization with local hybridogenetic water frogs. This invasion emphasizes the issues of frequent amphibian releases and translocations at the international and regional scale for commercial and recreational purposes, and stresses the need for more adequate legislation, control, and information for the general public.