Multi-level ecological fitting: indirect life cycles are not a barrier to host switching and invasion

M. Malcicka, S.J. Agosta, J.A. Harvey

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Many invasive species are able to escape from coevolved enemies and thus enjoy a competitive advantage over native species. However, during the invasion phase, non-native species must overcome many ecological and/or physiological hurdles before they become established and spread in their new habitats. This may explain why most introduced species either fail to establish or remain as rare interstitials in their new ranges. Studies focusing on invasive species have been based on plants or animals where establishment requires the possession of preadapted traits from their native ranges that enables them to establish and spread in their new habitats. The possession of preadapted traits that facilitate the exploitation of novel resources or to colonize novel habitats is known as 'ecological fitting'. Some species have evolved traits and life histories that reflect highly intimate associations with very specific types of habitats or niches. For these species, their phenological windows are narrow, and thus the ability to colonize non-native habitats requires that a number of conditions need to be met in accordance with their more specialized life histories. Some of the strongest examples of more complex ecological fitting involve invasive parasites that require different animal hosts to complete their life cycles. For instance, the giant liver fluke, Fascioloides magna, is a major parasite of several species of ungulates in North America. The species exhibits a life cycle whereby newly hatched larvae must find suitable intermediate hosts (freshwater snails) and mature larvae, definitive hosts (ungulates). Intermediate and definitive host ranges of F. magna in its native range are low in number, yet this parasite has been successfully introduced into Europe where it has become a parasite of native European snails and deer. We discuss how the ability of these parasites to overcome multiple ecophysiological barriers represents an excellent example of 'multiple-level ecological fitting'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3210-3218
    JournalGlobal Change Biology
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    Dive into the research topics of 'Multi-level ecological fitting: indirect life cycles are not a barrier to host switching and invasion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this