Convergence of life history and physiology during range expansion toward the phenotype of the native sister species

Published: 3 June 2024| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/j3zhzzv9nw.1
Janne Swaegers


In our globally changing planet many species show range expansions whereby they encounter new thermal regimes that deviate from those of their source region. Pressing questions are to what extent and through which mechanisms, plasticity and/or evolution, species respond to the new thermal regimes and whether these trait changes are adaptive. Using a common-garden experiment, we tested for plastic and evolutionary trait changes in life history and a set of understudied biochemical/physiological traits during the range expansion of the damselfly Ischnura elegans from France into a warmer region in Spain. To assess the adaptiveness of the trait changes we used the phenotype of its native sister species in Spain, I. graellsii, as proxy for the locally adapted phenotype. While our design cannot fully exclude maternal effects, our results suggest that edge populations adapted to the local conditions in the newly invaded region through the evolution of a faster pace-of-life (faster development and growth rates), a smaller body size, a higher energy budget and increased expression levels of the heat shock gene DnaJ. Notably, based on convergence toward the phenotype of the native sister species and its thermal responses, and the fit with predictions of life history theory these potential evolutionary changes were likely adaptive. Nevertheless, the convergence toward the native sister species is incomplete for thermal plasticity in traits associated with anaerobic metabolism and melanization. Our results highlight that evolution might at least partly contribute in an adaptive way to the persistence of populations during range expansion into new thermal environments and should be incorporated when predicting and understanding species’ range expansions.


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Evolutionary Adaptation


Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek


KU Leuven