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Keywords:

  • heterosis;
  • hybridization;
  • invasion success;
  • invasive snails;
  • life-history traits;
  • Martinique;
  • parthenogenesis;
  • Thiaridae

Abstract

Many invasive taxa are hybrids, but how hybridization boosts the invasive process remains poorly known. We address this question in the clonal freshwater snail Melanoides tuberculata from Martinique, using three parental and two hybrid lines. We combine an extensive field survey (1990–2003) and a quantitative genetic experiment to show that hybrid lines have outcompeted their parents in natural habitats, and that this increased invasiveness co-occurred with pronounced shifts in life-history traits, such as growth, fecundity and juvenile size. Given the little time between hybrid creation and sampling, and the moderate standing genetic variance for life-history traits in hybrids, we show that some of the observed trait changes between parents and hybrids were unlikely to arise only by continuous selection. We therefore suggest that a large part of hybrid advantage stems from immediate heterosis upon hybridization.