Biological Invasions

, Volume 14, Issue 10, pp 2159–2174 | Cite as

Nonnative African jewelfish are more fit but not bolder at the invasion front: a trait comparison across an Everglades range expansion

  • D. P. Lopez
  • A. A. Jungman
  • J. S. Rehage
Original Paper


Invasive species present a global threat to natural ecosystems and native biodiversity. Previous studies have shown that invasive range expansion is often related to the invader’s life histories and dispersal behavior. Among behavioral traits, boldness is a key trait that may aid species in performing well in novel environments. Thus, along a species’ invaded range, individuals from the invasion front should be bolder, better dispersers, and have life histories that maximize population growth relative to established populations. We tested these hypotheses with the invasion of the African jewelfish Hemichromis letourneuxi in Everglades National Park (ENP). Jewelfish entered ENP in 2000, and since then they have expanded their range rapidly but traceably. Our study examined variation in reproductive investment, body condition, gut fullness, boldness, and dispersal behavior across six wild-caught populations of African jewelfish. Boldness and dispersal were tested using an emergence-activity test and an emergence-dispersal test in large, outdoor experimental setups. We dissected fish from the six populations to assess life histories. Populations from the invasion front (western ENP) had higher reproductive investment, higher gut fullness, and better body condition, but they were not relatively bolder nor better dispersers than inner populations (eastern ENP). As the invasion progressed, lower intraspecific density at the invasion front may have relaxed competition and allowed for higher fitness and reproductive investment. Understanding underlying behavioral and life-history mechanisms of an invasion is key for the development of management strategies that aim to contain current invaders and prevent the spread of future ones.


Range expansion Fish Boldness Dispersal tendency Life history traits Invasion front 



This research is contribution # 549 of the Southeast Environmental Research Center(SERC) and was partly funded by a SERC Everglades Fellowship, Florida International University, by funding from CERP RECOVER through the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, and was developed in collaboration with the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER program under NSF DEB-9910514. We thank P. Stoddard, J. Heinen, and J. Kline for their support and feedback on this project. We greatly appreciate the valuable assistance of N. Bernal, J. P. Perea, R. Boucek, B. Gallagher, D. Gandy, and M. Anderson in the field and the overall development of this project.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth and Environment Department, Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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