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Complex consequences of increased density for reproductive output in an invasive freshwater snail

Neiman, Maurine, Warren, Donald, Rasmussen, Bryce, Zhang, Sylvia
Evolutionary ecology 2013 v.27 no.6 pp. 1117-1127
Potamopyrgus antipodarum, ecotoxicology, foods, freshwater, population density, population dynamics, reproductive performance, sexual reproduction, snails, New Zealand
Population density can have profound, often negative effects on fitness-related traits and population dynamics, and density dependence is of central importance to many prominent ecological and evolutionary hypotheses. Here, we used experimental manipulations of food, population density, and water conditioning to characterize the mechanisms underlying reproductive density-dependence in Potamopyrgus antipodarum. This New Zealand freshwater snail is a prominent model system for invasion biology, ecotoxicology, and the maintenance of sexual reproduction. We demonstrated that a primary source of negative density-dependence is food limitation, but surprisingly, we found that P. antipodarum reproductive output was much higher in high density versus low-density conditions when food was adequate. We then used manipulations of water environment to demonstrate that these positive effects of high density are likely caused by a waterborne substance produced by P. antipodarum. Altogether, these results indicate that there are strong and complex connections between food availability, density, and reproductive output in this important model system that could influence the dynamics of invasive populations, the costs and benefits of sex, and the approaches used for ecotoxicology studies.