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Prior adaptation, diversity, and introduction frequency mediate the positive relationship between propagule pressure and the initial success of founding populations

Abstract

Propagule pressure is often considered the most consistent predictor of the success of founding populations. This relationship could be mediated by the composition of the founding group (e.g. level of prior adaptation to the recipient environment or its diversity) as well as the introduction scenario (i.e. the frequency, size and timing of discrete introduction events). We introduced groups of Tribolium castaneum (red flour beetle) eggs across three levels of propagule pressure (n = 15, 30, 60), of three possible compositions (single, adapted lineage; single, unadapted lineage; mixed lineages) to a novel environment using six unique introduction scenarios, in a fully factorial design to evaluate the importance of composition and introduction scenario in influencing the relationship between propagule pressure and establishment. In our system, prior adaptation to the environment, including having some adapted individuals in mixed groups, rivaled the importance of propagule pressure in determining the establishment success and size of founding populations. More frequent introduction events resulted in fewer individuals that initially survived founding, but introduction scenario did not significantly influence establishment success or population size. This experimental evidence demonstrates the importance of context, both of the founding group and the recipient environment, in understanding how propagule pressure influences the success of founding populations.

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