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Evolution of dispersal and life history interact to drive accelerating spread of an invasive species

Authors

  • T. Alex Perkins,

    Corresponding author
    • Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
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  • Benjamin L. Phillips,

    1. Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld, Australia
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  • Marissa L. Baskett,

    1. Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
    2. Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
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  • Alan Hastings

    1. Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
    2. Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
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Correspondence: E-mail: taperkins@ucdavis.edu

Abstract

Populations on the edge of an expanding range are subject to unique evolutionary pressures acting on their life-history and dispersal traits. Empirical evidence and theory suggest that traits there can evolve rapidly enough to interact with ecological dynamics, potentially giving rise to accelerating spread. Nevertheless, which of several evolutionary mechanisms drive this interaction between evolution and spread remains an open question. We propose an integrated theoretical framework for partitioning the contributions of different evolutionary mechanisms to accelerating spread, and we apply this model to invasive cane toads in northern Australia. In doing so, we identify a previously unrecognised evolutionary process that involves an interaction between life-history and dispersal evolution during range shift. In roughly equal parts, life-history evolution, dispersal evolution and their interaction led to a doubling of distance spread by cane toads in our model, highlighting the potential importance of multiple evolutionary processes in the dynamics of range expansion.

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