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No evidence for rapid evolution of seed dispersal ability in range edge populations of the invasive species Senecio madagascariensis

Authors

  • Karen Bartle,

    1. Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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  • Angela T. Moles,

    1. Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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  • Stephen P. Bonser

    Corresponding author
    1. Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
    • Corresponding author.

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Abstract

Theory suggests that range edge populations of invading plants and animals may experience runaway selection for increased dispersal ability. This theory has been supported by field data for cane toads in Australia, and for Senecio inaequidens in Europe. In this study, we asked whether range edge populations of Senecio madagascariensis (Asteraceae), an invasive plant in eastern Australia, displayed higher dispersal ability that did populations from the established range. We measured 1363 diaspores from 33 populations. There was no significant difference in dispersal potential between populations from the range edge, and those from the established range (P = 0.19). We also used a glasshouse study to determine whether the range edge populations differed from populations in the established range in three critical life history traits: germination success, plant size and time to first reproduction. The only significant difference was for higher germination in range edge populations. The null result for dispersal ability is excellent news for land managers, as this is the first published evidence that selection for ever-increasing dispersal rates is not ubiquitous in invading populations.

Ancillary