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Life-history trait variation in native versus invasive asexual New Zealand mud snails

  • Physiological ecology – original research
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Potamopyrgus antipodarum is a New Zealand freshwater snail that is invasive worldwide. While native P. antipodarum populations are characterized by frequent coexistence between obligately sexual and obligately asexual individuals, only the asexual snails are known to invade other ecosystems. Despite low genetic diversity and the absence of sex, invasive asexual P. antipodarum are highly successful. Here, we quantified variation in three key life-history traits across invasive P. antipodarum lineages and compared this variation to already documented variation in these same traits in asexual native lineages to provide a deeper understanding of why some lineages become invasive. In particular, we evaluated if invasive lineages of P. antipodarum could be successful because they represent life-history variation from native ancestors that could facilitate invasion. We found that invasive snails displayed a non-representative sample of native diversity, with invasive snails growing more slowly and maturing more rapidly than their native counterparts. These results are consistent with expectations of a scenario where invasive lineages represent a subset of native variation that is beneficial in the setting of invasion. Together, these results help illuminate the mechanisms driving the worldwide expansion of invasive populations of these snails.

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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We thank Josie Bliss, Mia Battani, Clara Lenger, Mikaela Johnson, Sydney Stork, Alex Kern, and Ben Ripperger for snail maintenance. We acknowledge Laura Bankers, Curt Bankers, Kyle McElroy, Bennett Brown, J.D. Woodell, and J. Moreno for help with collecting snails. We acknowledge Max Sampson and Tyler Dennis for help with statistical analyses. Steve Hendrix and Andrew Forbes as well as several anonymous reviewers provided helpful feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript. We are grateful to the Carver Trust, Rick and Linda Maxson, and the National Science Foundation Grant 1753851 for funding support.


Carver Trust, Rick and Linda Maxson, National Science Foundation Grant 1753851 Conflicts of interest/Competing interests: none declared.

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MN, KL, and CD conceived and designed the study. CD, KL, CA-T, AG, and CK performed the experiments. CD and MN analyzed the data. CD and MN wrote the manuscript; other authors provided editorial advice.

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Correspondence to Carina Donne.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Additional information

Communicated by Leon A. Barmuta.

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Donne, C., Larkin, K., Adrian-Tucci, C. et al. Life-history trait variation in native versus invasive asexual New Zealand mud snails. Oecologia 199, 785–795 (2022).

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