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Sublethal effects on reproduction in native fauna: are females more vulnerable to biological invasion?


Although invasive species are a major threat to survivorship of native species, we know little about their sublethal effects. In soft-sediment marine systems, mat-forming invasive species often have positive effects, facilitating recruitment and enhancing the diversity and abundance of native invertebrates. However, because mat-forming invasive species change the habitat in which they invade, and benthic invertebrates are sensitive to environmental disturbance, important sublethal effects on native species may exist. Using a model marine system we show that the widespread mat-forming invasive alga Caulerpa taxifolia (Vahl) C. Agardh has strong negative effects on the reproductive traits of a native bivalve Anadara trapezia (Deshayes, 1840) (e.g. timing of reproductive development and spawning, and follicle and gamete production) even though the invader has positive effects on recruitment. Moreover, gender specific responses occurred and indicated that females were more susceptible to invasion than males. Our results indicate that sublethal effects of an invasive species on reproductive traits will have severe consequences for fitness of the native species.

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Thanks to Dr. Steve Bonser who provided valuable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. We also thank Louise MacKenzie for her valuable assistance with the collection of animals and video image analysis, and the histological unit, School of Medicine, University of New South Wales, for processing samples.

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Correspondence to Paul E. Gribben.

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Communicated by Martin Attrill

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Gribben, P.E., Wright, J.T. Sublethal effects on reproduction in native fauna: are females more vulnerable to biological invasion?. Oecologia 149, 352 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-006-0452-x

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  • Caulerpa taxifolia
  • Invasion biology
  • Life history
  • Reproductive traits
  • Sex ratios