The huge ecological and economic impact of biological invasions creates an urgent need for knowledge of traits that make invading species successful and factors helping indigenous populations to resist displacement by invading species or genotypes. High genetic diversity is generally considered to be advantageous in both processes. Combined with sex, it allows rapid evolution and adaptation to changing environments.
We combined paleogenetic analysis with continent-wide survey of genetic diversity at nuclear and mitochondrial loci to reconstruct the invasion history of a single asexual American water flea clone (hybrid Daphnia pulex×Daphnia pulicaria) in Africa. Within 60 years of the original introduction of this invader, it displaced the genetically diverse, sexual population of native D. pulex in Lake Naivasha (Kenya), despite a formidable numerical advantage of the local population and continuous replenishment from a large dormant egg bank. Currently, the invading clone has spread throughout the range of native African D. pulex, where it appears to be the only occurring genotype.
The absence of genetic variation did not hamper either the continent-wide establishment of this exotic lineage or the effective displacement of an indigenous and genetically diverse sibling species.