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Invasion of pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus is facilitated by phenotypic plasticity across its invasion gradient


As a non-native species invades a new region, individuals at the range front are often characterised by differences in their traits and behaviours versus individuals in the established ‘core’ area. Here, differences in life history traits of invading pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus were assessed across a fine spatial scale in the Sarıçay Stream, Turkey, with seven locations sampled between their core area and the invasion front. Following genetic analyses that suggested the pumpkinseed all originated from the same founding population, life history trait analyses revealed pronounced differences between the sites at the core and front that were independent of environmental factors. Pumpkinseed in sites towards the invasion front were of relatively low abundance and displayed relatively high reproductive investment, with heavier gonads, higher fecundity and smaller eggs. They also had faster growth rates than pumpkinseed in sites towards the core of the invasion. The traits displayed by pumpkinseed at sites in the mid-range were intermediate between the extremes displayed by fish at core and frontal sites. These results suggested high plasticity in life history traits of these pumpkinseed across this fine-scale invasion gradient and was considered to be most likely due to responses to low intra-specific competition at the invasion front that had shifted selective pressures towards higher investment in somatic growth and reproduction.

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The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author.


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This study was supported by The Scientific & Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) (Project No: 115Y660).

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Correspondence to Ali Serhan Tarkan.

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Tarkan, A.S., Karakuş, U., Top-Karakuş, N. et al. Invasion of pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus is facilitated by phenotypic plasticity across its invasion gradient. Biol Invasions 23, 3201–3214 (2021).

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  • Life history traits
  • Establishment
  • Invasion stage
  • Stream
  • Lepomis gibbosus