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

Michael C. Rotter, Mario Vallejo-Marin, Liza M. Holeski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-735
Number of pages23
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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