Do weeds live faster?

Ecological invasions are one the biggest threats to biodiversity. Invasive organisms share characteristics that make them superior competitors; for example, they often have rapid growth and short generation times. It has been suggested that invasive species should have higher metabolic rates in order to facilitate this rapid, weed-like lifestyle but systematic tests of metabolic rate across native and invasive species are lacking.

Marcelo Lagos investigated this question as part of his PhD (supervised by Dustin Marshall and Craig White).  This involved measuring metabolic rate for 14 different species across two phyla.

Bugula flabellate ready for measurements of metabolic rate.

Marcelo found that invasive species have higher mass-specific metabolic rates than native species. This difference was more pronounced in smaller organisms. These results suggest that systematic differences in metabolic rate have evolved in response to the selection pressures on invasive species.

This research has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Functional Ecology.