• Open Access

Evolutionary origins of invasive populations


Carol Eunmi Lee, Center of Rapid Evolution (CORE), Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.
Tel.: +1 (608) 262-2675;
e-mail: carollee@wisc.edu


What factors shape the evolution of invasive populations? Recent theoretical and empirical studies suggest that an evolutionary history of disturbance might be an important factor. This perspective presents hypotheses regarding the impact of disturbance on the evolution of invasive populations, based on a synthesis of the existing literature. Disturbance might select for life-history traits that are favorable for colonizing novel habitats, such as rapid population growth and persistence. Theoretical results suggest that disturbance in the form of fluctuating environments might select for organismal flexibility, or alternatively, the evolution of evolvability. Rapidly fluctuating environments might favor organismal flexibility, such as broad tolerance or plasticity. Alternatively, longer fluctuations or environmental stress might lead to the evolution of evolvability by acting on features of the mutation matrix. Once genetic variance is generated via mutations, temporally fluctuating selection across generations might promote the accumulation and maintenance of genetic variation. Deeper insights into how disturbance in native habitats affects evolutionary and physiological responses of populations would give us greater capacity to predict the populations that are most likely to tolerate or adapt to novel environments during habitat invasions. Moreover, we would gain fundamental insights into the evolutionary origins of invasive populations.