Unraveling the Life History of Successful Invaders

Science  03 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6094, pp. 580-583
DOI: 10.1126/science.1221523

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Despite considerable current interest in biological invasions, the common life-history characteristics of successful invaders remain elusive. The widely held hypothesis that successful invaders have high reproductive rates has received little empirical support; however, alternative possibilities are seldom considered. Combining a global comparative analysis of avian introductions (>2700 events) with demographic models and phylogenetic comparative methods, we show that although rapid population growth may be advantageous during invasions under certain circumstances, more generally successful invaders are characterized by life-history strategies in which they give priority to future rather than current reproduction. High future breeding expectations reduce the costs of reproductive failure under uncertain conditions and increase opportunities to explore the environment and respond to novel ecological pressures.

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