American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

“Evolutionary rescue from a wave of biological invasion depends strongly on competitive mode”

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J. David Van Dyken (Jan 2020)

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Can evolution save a species from being wiped out by an invasive species?


Evolution can potentially rescue populations from being driven extinct by biological invasions, but predictions for this occurrence are generally lacking. Here I derive theoretical predictions for evolutionary rescue of a resident population experiencing invasion from an introduced competitor that spreads over its introduced range as a traveling spatial wave that displaces residents. I compare the likelihood of evolutionary rescue from invasion for two modes of competition: exploitation and interference competition. I find that, all else equal, evolutionary rescue is less effective at preventing extinction caused by interference-driven invasions than by exploitation-driven invasions. Rescue from interference-driven invasions is, surprisingly, independent of invader dispersal rate or the speed of invasion, and is more weakly dependent on range size than in the exploitation-driven case. In contrast, rescue from exploitation-driven invasions strongly depends on range size and is less likely during fast invasions. The results presented here have potential applications for conserving endemic species from non-native invaders, or ensuring extinction of pests using intentionally introduced biocontrol agents.