, Volume 10, Issue 7, pp 1135-1145
Date: 29 Nov 2007

Quantitative genetic approach for assessing invasiveness: geographic and genetic variation in life-history traits

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Predicting the spread of invasive species is a challenge for modern ecology. Although many invasive species undergo genetic bottlenecks during introduction to new areas resulting in a loss of genetic diversity, successful invaders manage to flourish in novel environments either because of pre-adaptations or because important traits contain adaptive variation enabling rapid adaptation to changing conditions. To predict and understand invasion success, it is crucial to analyse these features. We assessed the potential of a well-known invader, the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), to expand north of its current range in Europe. A short growing season and harsh overwintering conditions are apparent limiting factors for this species’ range. By rearing full-sib families from four geographically distinct populations (Russia, Estonia, Poland, Italy) at two fluctuating temperature regimes, we investigated (a) possible differences in survival, development time, and body size among populations and (b) the amount of adaptive variation within populations in these traits. All populations were able to complete their development in cooler conditions than in their current range. A significant genotype–environment interaction for development time and body size suggests the presence of adaptive genetic variation, indicating potential to adapt to cooler conditions. The northernmost population had the highest survival rates and fastest development times on both temperature regimes, suggesting pre-adaptation to cooler temperatures. Other populations had minor differences in development times. Interestingly, this species lacks the classical trade-off between body size and development time which could have contributed to its invasion potential. This study demonstrates the importance of considering both ecological and evolutionary aspects when assessing invasion risk.