Effect phenotypic plasticity on the invasion success of the New Zealand mudsnail, The

Mistica, Arla M. A.
Invasive species are the second greatest threat to all biodiversity, yet along with aquatic systems, they have been understudied. Dr. Amy Krist and I investigated the effect of phenotypic plasticity on the successful invasion of an exotic snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, or the New Zealand mudsnail. Phenotypic plasticity is the response of a species to different environmental conditions based on its genotype. It can help invasion success if an exotic species can have higher fitness than the native species in a stressful environment, increase fitness better than the native species as the environment becomes favorable, or do both. In our experiment, we manipulated the amount of phosphorus (growth factor) and density to create stressful and favorable environments and examined the effect on snails' growth rate (fitness). We hypothesized that P. antipodarum with access to more phosphorus and low density would grow rapidly and reproduce at a higher rate. We found that the snails grew faster as the environment becomes favorable and reproduction is dependent upon size. The ability of P. antipodarum to increase its growth rate in favorable conditions suggests that phenotypic plasticity may aid in invasion success. This knowledge can help us determine if other exotic species have the potential to become invasive.
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