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Reasons for the invasive success of a guppy (Poecilia reticulata) population in Trinidad

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Abstract

The introduction of non-native species into new habitats poses a major threat to native populations. Of particular interest, though often overlooked, are introductions of populations that are not fully reproductively isolated from native individuals and can hybridize with them. To address this important topic we used different approaches in a multi-pronged study, combining the effects of mate choice, shoaling behaviour and genetics. Here we present evidence that behavioural traits such as shoaling and mate choice can promote population mixing if individuals do not distinguish between native and foreign conspecifics. We examined this in the context of two guppy (Poecilia reticulata) populations that have been subject to an introduction and subsequent population mixing event in Trinidad. The introduction of Guanapo River guppies into the Turure River more than 50 years ago led to a marked reduction of the original genotype. In our experiments, female guppies did not distinguish between shoaling partners when given the choice between native and foreign individuals. Introduced fish are therefore likely to benefit from the protection of a shoal and will improve their survival chances as a result. The additional finding that male guppies do not discriminate between females on the basis of origin will further increase the process of population mixing, especially if males encounter mixed shoals. In a mesocosm experiment, in which the native and foreign populations were allowed to mate freely, we found, as expected on the basis of these behavioural interactions, that the distribution of offspring genotypes could be predicted from the proportions of the two types of founding fish. This result suggests that stochastic and environmental processes have reinforced the biological ones to bring about the genetic dominance of the invading population in the Turure River. Re-sampling the Turure for genetic analysis using SNP markers confirmed the population mixing process and showed that it is an on-going process in this river and has led to the nearly complete disappearance of the original genotype.

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere38404
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS One
Volume7
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2012

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