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Selection of preadapted populations allowed Senecio inaequidens to invade Central Europe


Lipowsky,  A.
Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. E.-D. Schulze, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Bossdorf, O., Lipowsky, A., & Prati, D. (2008). Selection of preadapted populations allowed Senecio inaequidens to invade Central Europe. Diversity and Distributions, 14(4), 676-685. doi:10.1111/j.1472-4642.2008.00471.x.

Invasive species often evolve rapidly in response to the novel biotic and abiotic conditions in their introduced range. Such adaptive evolutionary changes might play an important role in the success of some invasive species. Here, we investigated whether introduced European populations of the South African ragwort Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae) have genetically diverged from native populations. We carried out a greenhouse experiment where 12 South African and 11 European populations were for several months grown at two levels of nutrient availability, as well as in the presence or absence of a generalist insect herbivore. We found that, in contrast to a current hypothesis, plants from introduced populations had a significantly lower reproductive output, but higher allocation to root biomass, and they were more tolerant to insect herbivory. Moreover, introduced populations were less genetically variable, but displayed greater plasticity in response to fertilization. Finally, introduced populations were phenotypically most similar to a subset of native populations from mountainous regions in southern Africa. Taking into account the species' likely history of introduction, our data support the idea that the invasion success of Senecio inaequidens in Central Europe is based on selective introduction of specific preadapted and plastic genotypes rather than on adaptive evolution in the introduced range. [References: 41]