Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Joel Trexler

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Timothy Collins

Third Advisor's Name

Eric Von Wettberg

Fourth Advisor's Name

René Price

Fifth Advisor's Name

William Loftus and Jerome Lorenz


invasive species, Cichlasoma, urophthalmus, cichlid, Florida Everglades, Central America, Mexico

Date of Defense



Invasive species have caused billions of dollars in damages to their introduced environment through direct effects on wildlife and by altering their introduced habitats. For a species to be considered invasive, it must successfully navigate the stages of invasion: it must be introduced, become established, spread, and have a quantifiable impact on its introduced environment. The numbers of introductions and individuals released affects the genetic diversity of nonnative populations which, in turn, can affect their invasion success.

The Mayan Cichlid (Cichlasoma urophthalmus) is endemic to the Atlantic coast of Mexico and Central America. It was first detected in the United States in 1983 in Everglades National Park. Since then, it has spread across more than 70,000 hectares throughout southern and central Florida. I have established the Mayan Cichlid to be a successful invader in Florida by quantifying per capita negative impacts of Mayan Cichlids on densities of Sheepshead Minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus), Marsh Killifish (Fundulus confluentus), and Eastern Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) over a 15-year period. I also analyzed the role of genetics in the invasion success of the Mayan Cichlid. I used a mitochondrial gene, cytochrome b, and 17 microsatellite loci to identify the sources for the Mayan Cichlid introduction into Florida. Cytochrome b data supported an introduction from Guatemala; microsatellite data suggested movement of Mayan Cichlids from the upper Yucatán Peninsula to Guatemala and introductions from Guatemala and Belize to Florida. I also found evidence of cytonuclear disequilibrium together with low genetic diversity within the Florida population which indicate a population bottleneck and admixture between two distinct lineages upon introduction, followed by rapid spread resulting in a panmictic population genetically distinct from the native range populations. I found much less genetic structure and a weaker correlation between genetic diversity and geographic distance within Florida compared with Mexico and Central America. Low number of effective alleles, heterozygosities, and FST values and the genetic similarity of Florida sites also indicate an admixed population or one that has rapidly expanded from a small initial group.





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