Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 887–903 | Cite as

Adaptation in marine invasion: a genetic perspective

  • C. K. TepoltEmail author
Molecular Tools


Genetic adaptation—heritable changes that alter an organism’s performance—may facilitate invasion at several scales, but is seldom considered in predicting and managing marine invasions. However, a growing body of research—largely based on emerging genetic approaches—suggests that adaptation is possible and potentially widespread in the marine realm. Here, I review evidence for adaptation in marine invasion, considering both quantitative and genetic studies. Quantitative studies, which consider trait-based differences between populations or individuals without directly examining genetic makeup, have suggested local adaptation in several high-profile species. This implies that invasion risk may not be constant from population to population within a species, a key assumption of most invasion models. However, in many quantitative studies, the effects of heritable adaptive changes may be confounded with the effects of plasticity. Molecular approaches can help disentangle these effects, and studies at the genomic level are beginning to elucidate the specific genetic patterns and pathways underlying adaptation in invasion. While studies at this scale are currently rare in the marine invasion literature, they are likely to become increasingly prevalent—and useful—now that next-generation sequencing approaches have become tractable in non-model systems. Both traditional and emerging genetic approaches can improve our understanding of adaptation in marine invasions, and can aid managers in making accurate predictions of invasion spread and risk.


Adaptation Genetics Marine invasion Next-generation sequencing Selection 



I wish to thank Drs. Steve Palumbi and George Somero and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on previous versions of this manuscript, and Drs. Alison Haupt and John Darling for their helpful overview of some of the tables. I was supported by a fellowship from the Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary, and Human Genomics; I greatly appreciate their support. The publication of this paper is supported by CONISMA, the Italian National Interuniversity Consortium for Marine Sciences, which received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) for the project VECTORS ( This paper stems from the International workshop MOLTOOLS (Molecular Tools for Monitoring Marine Invasive Species), held in Lecce, Italy, in September 2012.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA
  2. 2.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA

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