Trait heritability and its implications for the management of an invasive vertebrate

Biological Invasions
By: , and 



Control methods that target specific traits of an invasive species can produce results contrary to the aims of management. If targeted phenotypes exhibit heritability, then it follows that the invasive species could evolve greater resistance to the applied control measures over time. Additional complications emerge if those traits targeted by control are also inversely related to reproductive success. Given this, prudent considerations for invasive species management are to quantify the heritability of traits selected through control measures and gauge their relationship with reproductive success. Herein we provide a case study utilizing long-term field data and a multi-generational pedigree of an experimentally-closed population of brown treesnakes (N = 426; Boiga irregularis) on Guam. We employed an “animal model” to estimate the narrow-sense heritability (h2) for annual body condition, a trait related to both susceptibility to a primary tool used for brown treesnake control (i.e., live-lure traps) and annual reproductive success. Annual body condition displayed significant heritability [h2 = 0.149 (95% highest posterior density interval: 0.059–0.220)]. Considering a negative effect of body condition on susceptibility to trap capture but positive effect on reproductive success, significant heritability of body condition suggests the potential for live-lure traps to lose efficacy over time while also eliciting an undesirable effect on brown treesnake fecundity. Our results highlight the potential for negative repercussions that can stem from management actions, while also serving to underscore the evolutionary implications that are often overlooked but subsumed within invasive species control.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Trait heritability and its implications for the management of an invasive vertebrate
Series title Biological Invasions
DOI 10.1007/s10530-021-02588-3
Volume 23
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 3447
Last page 3456
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