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Selection of preadapted populations allowed Senecio inaequidens to invade Central Europe

Authors

  • Oliver Bossdorf,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany,
      Correspondence: Oliver Bossdorf, Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany. Fax: +49 3455585 329, E-mail: oliver.bossdorf@ufz.de
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  • Annett Lipowsky,

    1. Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany,
    2. Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Hans-Knöll-Str. 10, D-07745 Jena, Germany,
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  • Daniel Prati

    1. Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany,
    2. Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 1, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany
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    • Present address: Institute of Plant Science, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland


Correspondence: Oliver Bossdorf, Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany. Fax: +49 3455585 329, E-mail: oliver.bossdorf@ufz.de

ABSTRACT

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.

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