Enemy within the gates : reasons for the invasive success of a guppy population (Poecilia reticulata) in Trinidad
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The invasion of individuals into new habitats can pose a major threat to native species and to biodiversity itself. However, the consequences of invasions for native populations that are not fully reproductively isolated from their invaders are not yet well explored. Here I chose the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata, to investigate how different population traits shaped the outcome of Haskins's introduction, a well-documented invasion of Guanapo river guppies into the Turure river. I especially concentrated on the importance of behaviour for invasive success. I investigated if the spread of Guanapo guppies is due to superiority in behaviour, life-history and/or genetics, or if the outcome of this translocation is due to chance. Despite the fact that by today the invasive front has passed the Turure's confluence with the River Quare many kilometres downstream of the introduction site, and the original genotype only survives in small percentages, as was revealed by genetic analysis in this and other studies, no obvious differences between invasive and native populations could be detected in any of the tested behavioural, life-history and genetic traits. When tested for mate choice, neither Guanapo nor Oropuche (Turure) males seemed to be able to distinguish between the population origin of females, but courted and mated at random. At the same time, females did not prefer to school with individuals of the same population over schooling with more distantly related females. The formation of mixed schools after an invasive event is therefore likely. Because female guppies showed a very low willingness to mate, even after having been separated from males for up to six months, sperm transfer through forced copulations will become more important. Taken together, these behaviours could increase the speed of population mixing after an invasion without the need for behavioural superiority of the invasive population. When tested for their schooling abilities, offspring of mixed parentage, in contrast to pure breds, displayed a large amount of variety in the time they spent schooling, a circumstance that can potentially influence survival rates and therefore the direction of gene pool mixing. Guanapo fish did not show reproductive superiority in a mesocosm experiment, where both populations were mixed in different proportions. On the contrary, in two out of three mixed treatments, the amount of Oropuche (Turure) alleles was significantly higher than expected from the proportion of initially stocked fish. The almost complete absence of distinguishable traits other than genetic variation between the examined populations that belong to different drainage systems, opposes the recent split of the guppy into two different species following drainage system borders, as is argued in this thesis. However, the successful invasion of the Turure by Guanapo guppies and the nearly entire disappearance of the original population can be explained in absence of differing population traits. Here I demonstrate how behavioural and genetic interactions between subspecies influence the outcome of biological invasions and second, how factors other than population traits, such as the geographic situation, can produce an advantageous situation for the invader even in the absence of population differences.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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