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Keywords:

  • adaptive evolution;
  • admixture;
  • biocontrol;
  • biological invasion;
  • Europe;
  • harlequin ladybird;
  • Harmonia axyridis;
  • Hybridization;
  • life history;
  • phenotype

Abstract

Hybridization can fuel evolutionary processes during biological invasions. The harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis has long been used as a biocontrol agent before the species became invasive worldwide. Previous analysis based on microsatellite data has shown that European invasive populations bear traces of admixture between an eastern North American source, which is at the origin of the worldwide invasion, and biocontrol strains used in Europe. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that this early admixture event may have fostered the European invasion by impacting on the phenotypes of wild European populations. Mean life history traits of experimental F1 hybrids are compared with pure parental sources and wild European crosses. Our results reveal a biased impact whereby North American beetles benefitted from being admixed with European biocontrol strains. Resemblance between experimental hybrids and wild European invasive crosses further suggests a long-lasting effect of admixture that may still be at work and fostering invasiveness.