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Increased susceptibility to enemies following introduction in the invasive plant Silene latifolia




One of the influential hypotheses invoked to explain why species become invasive following introduction is that release from natural enemies favours a shift in investment from defence to traits enhancing growth and reproduction. Silene latifolia was introduced from Europe (EU) to North America (NA) c. 200 years ago where it experiences lower damage by natural enemies. A common garden experiment in EU using seeds from 20 EU and 20 NA populations revealed (1) genetically-based differences in life history between plants from EU and NA; plants from NA have evolved a weedy phenotype that flowers earlier, and has a two- to threefold higher reproductive potential; (2) higher susceptibility of NA plants to fungal infection, fruit predation, and aphid infestation. These results suggest that the invasive NA phenotype has evolved at the expense of defensive abilities. Despite this increased susceptibility to enemies, NA populations still outperformed EU populations in this common garden.