Female persistence during toxicant treatment predicts survival probability of offspring in invasive brown treesnakes (Boiga irregularis)

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Assessing the long-term efficacy of control methods is a critical component of invasive species management. For example, if traits related to control have significant heritability or are influenced by maternal effects, control methods may lose efficacy over time. The potential for these effects can be evaluated via parent/offspring survival analysis, which concomitantly recasts adaptive management as an evolutionary force for invasive species. However, difficulties can arise when the life history of an invasive is cryptic, precluding direct observations of familial relationships. Genomic pedigree reconstruction can facilitate such analyses by assigning offspring to parents in invasive species for which mating and reproduction are difficult to study. Here, we use genomic pedigree reconstruction to quantify parental longevity and probability of offspring survival for brown treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) on Guam in a landscape treated with toxic baits simulating application via an aerial delivery system (ADS). To do so, we used 398 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to update an existing multi-generational genomic pedigree for a geographically-closed population of brown treesnakes. This facilitated assignment of parents to juveniles born during three consecutive years of toxic bait application under a simulated aerial treatment program (N = 72). We found that the offspring of dams that persisted until the end of the study displayed greater survival probability (cox proportional hazard model, P < 0.001), yet there was no such effect for sires. This sex-specific relationship between parental longevity and offspring survival indicates that heritability of traits contributing to resistance to ADS is unlikely, but it supports a role of maternal effects that could undermine ADS. Our study identifies potential risks associated with control efforts and also highlights the utility of parent-offspring survival analyses informed by genomic pedigree reconstruction as a tool for adaptive management.

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Global Ecology and Conservation



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