we research species that move outside of their native distribution
Our research focuses on the ways biological invasions work and how they alter ecosystems
Cities provide unique opportunities for non-native species to establish and are also one of the main drivers of exotic species introductions.
Behavioural traits are key for exotic species to survive when in novel environments as it shifts fast according to changing conditions.
When an invader establishes in a given area it changes the community that surrounds it, often promoting native populations decline.
Invasive species tend to be more tolerant to climate changes, in global warming scenarios they are expected to be even more successful.
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The use of exotic species for pest biocontrol has been a common pathway for introduction and dispersal of invasive species that may have undesired outcomes. Biocontrol agents are believed to be a less damaging alternative than pesticides, but some species may also prey on or parasitize native species or outcompete them for resources. The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) is a well-known biocontrol agent originally from Asia that has established invasive populations in 59 countries around the globe. Harlequin ladybirds are generalist predators that in addition to pests prey on an array of different species including other coccinelids’ eggs and larvae. In Mexico, native ladybirds that share ecological requirements with harlequin ladybirds are at risk of being outcompeted and predated upon. The aim of our study was to compare the foraging efficiency of harlequin ladybirds against three species of native coccinelids when preying on aphids. We investigated the foraging behaviour of ladybirds alone and in pairs with a conspecific, a native heterospecific or an exotic heterospecific. We found that the native Cycloneda sanguinea was the species that consumed the most aphids, while Hippodamia convergens was the fastest to find and consume each aphid. Harlequin ladybirds and H. convergens consumed the same number of aphids while P. vittigera consumed less. Conspecific competition was stronger than heterospecific competition. We discuss the suitability of using the exotic invasive harlequin ladybird for aphid biocontrol in comparison with native coccinelids.
Urbanization creates environmental conditions that hinder the growth of natural vegetation. We surveyed the ruderal vegetation from a periurban university campus in west-central Mexico during the rainy seasons of 2008 and 2016–2018, time during which the campus underwent intensive construction. The built area grew from 4 ha in 2009 to 12.6 ha in 2017. We identified 234 different Angiosperms belonging to 165 genera and 43 families and the community composition changed over time. For example, Asteraceae was replaced by Poaceae as the richest family in 2018. Also, 16 native species found in 2008 disappeared from the study site, 9 of which have been related with low disturbance. In contrast, 98 new species were observed in the latter years, including some that are commonly found in cities. Overall, species richness increased with time, including that of exotic species that increased from 16 % of the total species in 2008 to 24 % in 2018. Thirteen of such exotic species are invasive in Mexico, including Digitaria velutina, Asphodelus fistulosus, Mercurialis annua, and Senecio inaequidens, for which this was their first record in the city of Morelia (population 849,053), where the campus is located. These results suggest that environmental conditions imposed by disturbance can favor the proliferation of various species, especially grasses and several exotic species of different families.
Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Behavioral traits are recognized as key to promote individual’s survival in changing conditions. For social species being part of a group is key to carry out vital activities. Heterospecific social environments could provide exotic species with the opportunity to join groups and gain the advantages of being part of a larger population. Short latency to exit a refuge is a behavioral response that could be linked to invasion success as it increases the chances of individuals to locate food sources and other resources in novel environments. The guppy (Poecilia reticulata), a successful invader, has been found to take advantage of the presence of native species to reduce its refuge emergence latency and acquire information. The research was carried out in Mexico, we investigated the effect of heterospecific social contexts that include natives and other invasive viviparous fishes on guppies’ refuge emergence latency. We found that guppies’ emergence latency was shorter when accompanied by another guppy than when alone. Their latency was also shorter when with other invaders and when with native goodeids, but with one of the invaders (Pseudoxiphophorus bimaculatus) and with goodeids (Skiffia bilineata) latency reduction was not as high as when with conspecifics or with the invader Poecilia gracilis. Our experiment supports both the idea that already established invaders could provide benefits to new ones, and that native species also provide benefits but less than invaders. Increasing our knowledge about conspecific and heterospecific social interactions that could make an exotic species become invasive is key to assess the invasion risk of a community.