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Keywords:

  • admixture;
  • biological invasion;
  • Harmonia axyridis;
  • intraspecific hybridization;
  • life-history traits;
  • quantitative genetics

Abstract

So far, only a few studies have explicitly investigated the consequences of admixture for the adaptative potential of invasive populations. We addressed this question in the invasive ladybird Harmonia axyridis. After decades of use as a biological control agent against aphids in Europe and North America, H. axyridis recently became invasive in four continents and has now spread widely in Europe. Despite this invasion, a flightless strain is still sold as a biological control agent in Europe. However, crosses between flightless and invasive individuals yield individuals able to fly, as the flightless phenotype is caused by a single recessive mutation. We investigated the potential consequences of admixture between invasive and flightless biological control individuals on the invasion in France. We used three complementary approaches: (i) population genetics, (ii) a mate-choice experiment, and (iii) a quantitative genetics experiment. The invasive French population and the biological control strain showed substantial genetic differentiation, but there are no reproductive barriers between the two. Hybrids displayed a shorter development time, a larger size and a higher genetic variance for survival in starvation conditions than invasive individuals. We discuss the potential consequences of our results with respect to the invasion of H. axyridis in Europe.