How do invasion syndromes evolve? An experimental evolution approach using the ladybird Harmonia axyridis
Ruth A Hufbauer,
Posted 21 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/849968
Posted 21 Nov 2019
Experiments comparing native to introduced populations or distinct introduced populations to each other show that phenotypic evolution is common and often involves a suit of interacting phenotypic traits. We define such sets of traits that evolve in concert and contribute to the success of invasive populations as an "invasion syndrome". The invasive Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis displays such an invasion syndrome with, for instance, females from invasive populations being larger and heavier than individuals from native populations, allocating more resources to reproduction, and spreading reproduction over a longer lifespan. Invasion syndromes could emerge due to selection acting jointly and directly on a multitude of traits, or due to selection on one or a few key traits that drive correlated indirect responses in other traits. Here, we investigated the degree to which the H. axyridis invasion syndrome would emerge in response to artificial selection on either female body mass or on age at first reproduction, two traits involved in their invasion syndrome. To further explore the interaction between environmental context and evolutionary change in molding the phenotypic response, we phenotyped the individuals from the selection experiments in two environments, one with abundant food resources and one with limited resources. The two artificial selection experiments show that the number of traits showing a correlated response depends upon the trait undergoing direct selection. Artificial selection on female body mass resulted in few correlated responses and hence poorly reproduced the invasion syndrome. In contrast, artificial selection on age at first reproduction resulted in more widespread phenotypic changes, which nevertheless corresponded only partly to the invasion syndrome. The artificial selection experiments also revealed a large impact of diet on the traits, with effects dependent on the trait considered and the selection regime. Overall, our results indicate that direct selection on multiple traits was likely necessary in the evolution of the H. axyridis invasion syndrome. Furthermore, they show the strength of using artificial selection to identify the traits that are correlated in different selective contexts, which represents a crucial first step in understanding the evolution of complex phenotypic patterns, including invasion syndromes. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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