• Accidental introduction;
  • dispersal;
  • establishment;
  • life history traits;
  • novel pathogen;
  • vector


In recent years, policy-makers have sought the development of appropriate tools to prevent and manage introductions of invasive species. However, these tools are not well suited for introductions of non-target species that are unknowingly released alongside intentionally-introduced species. The most compelling example of such invasion is arguably the topmouth gudgeon Pseudorasbora parva, a small cyprinid species originating from East Asia. A combination of sociological, economical and biological factors has fuelled their rapid invasion since the 1960s; 32 countries (from Central Asia to North Africa) have been invaded in less than 50 years. Based on a combination of monitoring surveys (2535 populations sampled) and literature reviews, this paper aims to quantify and characterise important invasion parameters, such as pathways of introduction, time between introduction and detection, lag phase and plasticity of life history traits. Every decade, five new countries have reported P. parva introduction, mainly resulting from the movement of Chinese carps for fish farming. The mean detection period after first introduction was 4 years, a duration insufficient to prevent their pan-continental invasion. High phenotypic plasticity in fitness related traits such as growth, early maturity, fecundity, reproductive behaviour and the ability to cope with novel pathogens has predisposed P. parva to being a strong invader. The Pseudorasbora parva invasion has provided quantitative data for the development of 1) early warning systems across different spatial scales; 2) rapid eradication programmes prior to natural spread in open systems and 3) sound risk assessments with emphasis on plasticity of life history traits.