Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Testing the enemy release hypothesis in a native insect species with an expanding range.

Abstract

The enemy release hypothesis (ERH) predicts that the spread of (invasive) species will be facilitated by release from their enemies as they occupy new areas. However, the ERH is rarely tested on native (non-invasive, long established) species with expanding or shifting ranges. I tested the ERH for a native damselfly (Enallagma clausum) whose range has recently expanded in western Canada, with respect to its water mite and gregarine parasites. Parasitism levels (prevalence and intensity) were also compared between E. clausum and a closely related species, Enallagma boreale, which has long been established in the study region and whose range is not shifting. A total of 1,150 damselflies were collected at three 'old' sites for E. clausum in Saskatchewan, and three 'new' sites in Alberta. A little more than a quarter of the damselflies collected were parasitized with, on average, 18 water mite individuals, and 20% were parasitized by, on average, 10 gregarine individuals. I assessed whether the differences between levels of infection (prevalence and intensity) were due to site type or host species. The ERH was not supported: Enallagma clausum has higher or the same levels of parasitism in new sites than old sites. However, E. boreale seems to be benefitting from the recent range expansion of a native, closely related species through ecological release from its parasites because the parasites may be choosing to infest the novel, potentially naïve, host instead of the well-established host.