Recent admixture generates heterozygosity-fitness correlations during the range expansion of an invading species.
Admixture, the mixing of historically isolated gene pools, can have immediate consequences for the genetic architecture of fitness traits. Admixture may be especially important for newly colonized populations, such as during range expansion and species invasions, by generating heterozygosity that can boost fitness through heterosis. Despite widespread evidence for admixture during species invasions, few studies have examined the demographic history leading to admixture, how admixture affects the heterozygosity and fitness of invasive genotypes, and whether such fitness effects are maintained through time. We address these questions using the invasive plant Silene vulgaris, which shows evidence of admixture in both its native Europe and in North America where it has invaded. Using multilocus genotype data in conjunction with approximate Bayesian computation analysis of demographic history, we showed that admixture during the invasion of North America was independent from and much younger than admixture in the native range of Europe. We tested for fitness consequences of admixture in each range and detected a significant positive heterozygosity-fitness correlation (HFC) in North America; in contrast, no HFC was present in Europe. The lack of HFC in Europe may reflect the longer time since admixture in the native range, dissipating associations between heterozygosity at markers and fitness loci. Our results support a key short-term role for admixture during the early stages of invasion by generating HFCs that carry populations past the threat of extinction from inbreeding and demographic stochasticity.