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Scale-dependent patterns of intraspecific trait variations in two globally invasive species


Animal species often show substantial intraspecific trait variability (ITV), yet evidence for its flexibility across multiple ecological scales remains poorly explored. Gaining this knowledge is essential to better understand the different processes maintaining ITV in nature. Due to their broad geographic ranges, widespread invasive species are expected to display strong phenotypic variations across their distribution. Here, we quantified the scale-dependent patterns of morphological variability among invasive populations of two global freshwater invaders—red swamp crayfish Procambarus clarkii and pumpkinseed sunfish Lepomis gibbosus—both established in American and European lakes. We quantified patterns in body morphology across different ecological (Individual and Population) and spatial scales (Region). We then analyzed the scale-dependency of morphological variations among lake populations that span a diversity of abiotic and biotic conditions. Next, we used stable isotope analyses to test the existence of ecomorphological patterns linking morphology and trophic niche of individuals. We found that trait variations mainly accounted for at the regional and individual levels. We showed that populations of both species strongly differed between United States and Europe whereas habitat characteristics had a relatively minor influence on morphological variations. Stable isotope analyses also revealed that ecomorphological pattern for the trophic position of L. gibbosus was region-dependent, whereas no ecomorphological patterns were observed for P. clarkii. Overall, our study strongly supports the notion that the patterns of phenotypic variability among invasive populations are likely to modulate the ecological impacts of invasive species on recipient ecosystems.

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We are very grateful to our numerous colleagues for their help during sampling and thank Florian Vincent for creating the map of the studied areas. We thank two anonymous reviewers and the editors for their valuable comments.


This work was supported by a CNRS-INEE PICS (Ind_Eco_Evo_Inva) and GDRI (EFF), the ONEMA (Projet ISOLAC and ERADINVA) and a PRES-Toulouse Grant (Inva_Eco_Evo_Lac). CE and JC are part of EDB, part of the French Laboratory of Excellence project “TULIP” (ANR-10-LABX.41; ANR-11-IDEX-0002-02). JDO was support by the University of Washington H. Mason Keeler Endowed Professorship.

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CE, JC and JDO designed and conceived the study and led the fieldwork. CE analysed the data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the preparation of the manuscript and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to C. Evangelista.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Authorizations to perform this study were provided by the “Arrêtés Préfectoraux—18/09/2014 and 30/10/2014”.

Additional information

Communicated by Leon A. Barmuta.

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Evangelista, C., Olden, J.D., Lecerf, A. et al. Scale-dependent patterns of intraspecific trait variations in two globally invasive species. Oecologia 189, 1083–1094 (2019).

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  • Ecomorphology
  • Lepomis gibbosus
  • Procambarus clarkii
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Stable isotopes