Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) reveals introgression in weedy Onopordum thistles: hybridization and invasion



Onopordum L. (Compositae) is an extremely diverse genus of thistles, which includes several species that have become serious pasture weeds in several regions of the world. We present a comparison of the genetic diversity in invasive forms of Onopordum from Australia with several known native European species. A total of 108 polymorphic genetic markers was generated using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) fingerprinting. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) revealed that Australia contained O. acanthium, O. illyricum and a full range of genetic intermediates between these species. Intermediates largely comprised segregating fragments diagnostic for European O. acanthium and O. illyricum with a low frequency of fragments that were diagnostic for other species never recorded in Australia. The current genetic patterns in Australia may be best explained by a combination of processes, both in the native and in the alien range. These include multiple introductions of seed, including hybrid material, and the continuous dispersal in Australia, leading to an increase in the contact among hybridizing taxa. Such processes appear to have produced more widespread hybridization and introgression in Australian Onopordum than is found in Europe.