Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 713–735 | Cite as

A test of the evolution of increased competitive ability in two invaded regions

  • Michael C. RotterEmail author
  • Mario Vallejo-Marin
  • Liza M. Holeski
Original Paper


Non-native plant species invasions can have significant ecological and economic impacts. Finding patterns that predict and explain the success of non-native species has thus been an important focus in invasion ecology. The evolution of increased competitive ability (EICA) hypothesis has been a frequently used framework to understand invasion success. Evolution of increased competitive ability predicts that (1) non-native populations will escape from coevolved specialist herbivores that were present within the native range and this release from specialist herbivores should result in relaxed selection pressure on specialist-related defense traits, (2) there will be a trade-off between allocation of resources for resistance against specialist herbivores and allocation to traits related to competitive ability, and (3) this shift will allow more allocation to competitive ability traits. We tested the predictions of EICA in the model plant Mimulus guttatus, a native of western North America (WNA). We compared how well the predictions of EICA fit patterns in two non-native regions, the United Kingdom (UK), an older more successful invasion, and eastern North America (ENA), a younger less successful invasion. We completed extensive herbivore surveys and grew plants derived from multiple populations in each region in a common greenhouse environment to test adherence to the predictions of EICA. We found evidence of specialist herbivore escape in the UK, but not the ENA plants. Compared to native plants the UK plants had lower levels of resistance traits, were taller, and produced larger and more flowers, while the ENA plants had mostly equivalent traits to the WNA plants. Plants from the UK conformed to the predictions of EICA more closely than those from ENA. The UK invasion is an older, more successful invasion, suggesting that support for EICA predictions may be highest in more successful invasions.


Evolution of increased competitive ability Mimulus guttatus Invasion ecology Herbivores Evolutionary ecology 



We thank the members of the Holeski lab group for assistance on various parts of this project. Phil Patterson helped with plant cultivation in the greenhouse. Thanks to Dean Robinson who let us study the plants on his property. Comments from Dr. Tom Whitham and Dr. Richard Hofstetter improved this manuscript.


Funding was provided by the NAU genes to environment fellowship program and the NAU Department of Biological Sciences. A special thanks to funding from the Michigan Botanical Foundation, Idaho Native Plant Society, and the Utah Native Plant Society.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interests.

Supplementary material

10682_2019_10004_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2018 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael C. Rotter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mario Vallejo-Marin
    • 2
  • Liza M. Holeski
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

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