A clue to invasion success: genetic diversity quickly rebounds after introduction bottlenecks.
One of the fundamental questions in invasion biology is to understand the genetic mechanisms behind success or failure during the establishment of a species. However, major limitations to understanding are usually a lack of spatiotemporal population data and information on the populations' colonisation history. In a large-scale, detailed study on the bush-cricket Metrioptera roeselii 70 groups of founders were introduced in areas outside the species' distribution range. We examined how (1) the number of founders (2-32 individuals), (2) the time since establishment (7 or 15 years after introduction) and (3) possible gene flow affected establishment success and temporal genetic changes of the introduced populations. We found higher establishment success in introductions with larger propagule sizes but genetic diversity indices were only partly correlated to propagule size. As expected, introduced populations were more similar to their founder population the larger the propagule size was. However, even if apparent at first, most of the differentiation in the small propagule introductions disappeared over time. Surprisingly, genetic variability was regained to a level comparable to the large and outbreeding founder population only 15 generations after severe demographic bottlenecks. We suggest that the establishment of these populations could be a result of several mechanisms acting in synergy. Here, rapid increase in genetic diversity of few introductions could potentially be attributed to limited gene flow from adjacent populations, behavioural adaptations and/or even increased mutation rate. We present unique insights into genetic processes that point towards traits that are important for understanding species' invasiveness.