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Data from: Genetic mixture of multiple source populations accelerates invasive range expansion

Cite this dataset

Wagner, Natalie M. et al. (2017). Data from: Genetic mixture of multiple source populations accelerates invasive range expansion [Dataset]. Dryad.


A wealth of population genetic studies have documented that many successful biological invasions stem from multiple introductions from genetically distinct source populations. Yet, mechanistic understanding of whether and how genetic mixture promotes invasiveness has lagged behind documentation that such mixture commonly occurs. We conducted a laboratory experiment to test the influence of genetic mixture on the velocity of invasive range expansion. The mechanistic basis for effects of genetic mixture could include evolutionary responses (mixed invasions may harbour greater genetic diversity and thus elevated evolutionary potential) and/or fitness advantages of between-population mating (heterosis). If driven by evolution, positive effects of source population mixture should increase through time, as selection sculpts genetic variation. If driven by heterosis, effects of mixture should peak following first reproductive contact and then dissipate. Using a laboratory model system (beetles spreading through artificial landscapes), we quantified the velocity of range expansion for invasions initiated with one, two, four or six genetic sources over six generations. Our experiment was designed to test predictions corresponding to the evolutionary and heterosis mechanisms, asking whether any effects of genetic mixture occurred in early or later generations of range expansion. We also quantified demography and dispersal for each experimental treatment, since any effects of mixture should be manifest in one or both of these traits. Over six generations, invasions with any amount of genetic mixture (two, four and six sources) spread farther than single-source invasions. Our data suggest that heterosis provided a ‘catapult effect’, leaving a lasting signature on range expansion even though the benefits of outcrossing were transient. Individual-level trait data indicated that genetic mixture had positive effects on local demography (reduced extinction risk and enhanced population growth) during the initial stages of invasion but no consistent effects on dispersal ability. Our work is the first to demonstrate that genetic mixture can alter the course of spatial expansion, the stage of invasion typically associated with the greatest ecological and economic impacts. We suggest that similar effects of genetic mixture may be a common feature of biological invasions in nature, but that these effects can easily go undetected.

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