Biological Invasions

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 379-391

First online:

Dispersal Behavior, Boldness, and the Link to Invasiveness: A Comparison of Four Gambusia Species

  • J. Schöpf RehageAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Kentucky, Florida International University Email author 
  • , Andrew Sih

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Dispersal is a key element of a species' invasiveness. Although considerable work has addressed how dispersal influences the pattern of spatial spread of invading organisms, few studies investigate whether invasive species are in fact better dispersers than either the species they displace or less successful invaders. Recent work suggests that variation in dispersal may be due to variation in an underlying behavioral trait, boldness. Our study examined the link between dispersal, boldness, and invasiveness by comparing the dispersal characteristics and refuge use of two invasive Gambusia species to two congeners in experimental streams. The streams consisted of a series of pools (no flow) connected to a flowing channel. For each species, small groups of females were released at the middle pool, and their movement and activity were recorded over a 1-h period. We found invasive Gambusia to be more likely to disperse out of the introductory pool, to disperse sooner, to travel a greater distance in the artificial streams, and thus to exhibit greater dispersal tendencies than their close relatives. Among the invasives, Gambusia affinis had a greater dispersal tendency than G. holbrooki. We suspect this result indicates variation in the contribution of dispersal to the relative invasiveness of these species. Certain dispersal measures were correlated to time spent out of refuge, although invasive Gambusia and their relatives did not differ in the predicted manner. These results argue for the greater incorporation of experimental approaches and analyses of behavioral mechanisms in the study of invasive species.

behavior boldness dispersal tendency fish Gambusia invasion