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Population decline despite high genetic diversity in the new allopolyploid species Senecio cambrensis (Asteraceae)


Richard Abbott, Fax: +44 (0)1334 463366; E-mail:


Senecio cambrensis (Welsh groundsel) is a new allohexaploid species, which originated in Wales, UK, in the early part of the 20th century following hybridization between the native tetraploid groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) and the introduced diploid Oxford ragwort (Senecio squalidus). A survey of the number of populations and flowering individuals per population of S. cambrensis in Wales was conducted at peak flowering time in June 2002, 2003 and 2004. The results show a dramatic decrease in both population number and population size of the species since the 1980s when the last population census was conducted. A survey of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) variation showed that this decline has occurred despite the fact that S. cambrensis contains a high level of genetic diversity with each individual screened possessing a unique multilocus phenotype. The level of variance within the species was similar to that found in one parent (S. vulgaris) and slightly greater than that among samples of the other parent (S. squalidus). Only a small proportion (5%) of AFLP diversity was partitioned among populations indicating a lack of population structure and possibly high levels of gene flow via seed dispersal in what is predominantly a selfing species. Senecio cambrensis showed closer similarity in AFLP phenotype to S. vulgaris than to S. squalidus. Possible causes of this and also the high level of AFLP diversity found in S. cambrensis are discussed. It is suggested that intergenomic recombination following occasional multivalent formation during meiosis in S. cambrensis is likely to be an important cause of both phenomena, although other causes are not ruled out.