Does enemy loss cause release? A biogeographical comparison of parasitoid effects on an introduced insect

Kirsten M. Prior, Jessica J. Hellmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The loss of natural enemies is a key feature of species introductions and is assumed to facilitate the increased success of species in new locales (enemy release hypothesis; ERH). The ERH is rarely tested experimentally, however, and is often assumed from observations of enemy loss. We provide a rigorous test of the link between enemy loss and enemy release by conducting observational surveys and an in situ parasitoid exclusion experiment in multiple locations in the native and introduced ranges of a gall-forming insect, Neuroterus saltatorius, which was introduced poleward, within North America. Observational surveys revealed that the gall-former experienced increased demographic success and lower parasitoid attack in the introduced range. Also, a different composition of parasitoids attacked the gall-former in the introduced range. These observational results show that enemies were lost and provide support for the ERH. Experimental results, however, revealed that, while some enemy release occurred, it was not the sole driver of demographic success. This was because background mortality in the absence of enemies was higher in the native range than in the introduced range, suggesting that factors other than parasitoids limit the species in its native range and contribute to its success in its introduced range. Our study demonstrates the importance of measuring the effect of enemies in the context of other community interactions in both ranges to understand what factors cause the increased demographic success of introduced species. This case also highlights that species can experience very different dynamics when introduced into ecologically similar communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1015-1024
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cynipid
  • Enemy release hypothesis
  • Exclusion experiment
  • Gall-former
  • Intra-continental introduction
  • Invasion success
  • Native and introduced range
  • Neuroterus saltatorius
  • Parasitoids


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