Differences in life history strategies between an invasive and a competing resident seed predator.
Competitive interactions may arise from biological invasion if a successful invasive species requires the ecological niche of a resident one. Life-history traits that make a species a successful invader are of particular interest in elucidating both invasion success and how interspecific competition may emerge. In southeastern France, the invasion of cedar forests by the seed chalcid Megastigmus schimitscheki generated competitive relationships with the resident M. pinsapinis for the exploitation of the seed resource. Among the numerous ecological traits allowing these seed predators to exploit their niche successfully, the timing of adult emergence, initial egg load and age-specific realized fecundities of females were investigated to help understanding the issue of such interspecific relationships. Spring adult emergence of M. schimitscheki under natural conditions was significantly earlier than that of M. pinsapinis, suggesting that an advantage for the access to the seed resource for the invasive species may be associated with this trait. Initial egg load was significantly higher in M. schimitscheki than in M. pinsapinis and the analysis of age-specific realized fecundity in semi-natural conditions indicated that both M. schimitscheki and M. pinsapinis females lay a large proportion of their eggs during the early days of their lives. In the light of these findings, both earlier phenology and higher reproduction abilities of M. schimitscheki may have the potential to confer an advantage within a competitive context with M. pinsapinis through enhanced seed resource preemption. This may potentially explain the invasiveness of M. schimitscheki in southern France despite the presence of its closely related competitor M. pinsapinis.