Victor Frankel writes:
In an increasingly globalized world, populations of invasive species can be the product of multiple independent introduction events with founder populations having different biogeographical origins and distinct life history traits. With support of a GIN research exchange, I was able to collaborate with Dr. Patrice David at the Center for Functional Ecology and Evolution at the National Center for Scientific Research in Montpellier, France to develop a framework with which to use life history traits of an invasive host snail species, Melanoides tuberculata, to predict the invasion potential of distinct populations of hosts and by extension, parasites that infect them.
Melanoides tuberculata is a globally widespread snail that has invaded freshwater streams and lakes throughout tropical and temperate areas around the world. Patrice David’s lab has discovered that the M. tuberculata species complex encompass 17 distinct lineages from its native range in East Asia to Central Africa and New World hybrids with high variance in important life history traits. Because this snail is mostly clonal, genetic lineages are preserved when distinct populations are independently introduced. In Panama, we have recently discovered the invasion of distinct varieties of M. tuberculata originating in Africa and Southeast Asia. Yet populations of M. tuberculata in Panama vary from other populations of this snail in other introduced ranges in the extent that they are parasitized.
We are now experimentally testing patterns of host specificity of a highly invasive parasite, C. formosanus, across all varieties of M. tuberculata to consider the implications of host-specificity of parasites that interact with highly invasive hosts for the invasion potential of both parasite and host in novel habitats. By extending the insights from laboratory experiments that will come directly out of this research exchange to natural processes, we hope to build a collaborative research program that will allow us to understand the interaction of ecology and genetics in understanding the role of parasites in invaded communities and the role of biological invasions in the spread of disease.