Natives adapting to invasive species: ecology, genes, and the sustainability of conservation


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Abstract

Contemporary anthropogenic evolution is common. Biological invasions are an especially dynamic form of novel selection. This paper considers how native species evolve in response to biological invasions and the potential consequences of such evolution. Among numerous recent cases, the most widely reported instances are of phytophagous insects shifting onto introduced host plants. For example, our studies show that in North America and Australia, soapberry bugs evolved substantially after colonizing introduced hosts. Such cases permit close estimation of evolution's direction and rate, and we have used cross-rearing studies of derived and ancestral-type populations to measure changes in reaction norms and performance tradeoffs. Different fitness traits have followed very different paths in evolving to their current phenotypic values. Our hybridization studies show that the genetic architecture of these adaptations involves a surprising degree of non-additive variation (epistasis, dominance). The importance of non-additive genetic variation in rapid evolution will be clarified as more studies take advantage of similar situations. As appreciation grows for the deep contemporary interplay of evolution and ecology, debate about qualitative terms describing evolution's rate will become less relevant. From a conservation standpoint, contemporary evolution in native species presents challenges for ecologically appropriate and sustainable management. Evolving natives and invaders may reconfigure contemporary and future communities. Adaptive evolution may also enhance native communities' capacity to control invasive populations.

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