Evolution of dispersal traits along an invasion route in the wind-dispersed Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae)


A. Monty, Biodiversity and Landscape Unit, Gembloux Agrio-Bio Tech, Univ. of Liege, Passage des Déportés, 2, BE–5030 Gembloux, Belgium. E-mail: arnaud.monty@ulg.ac.be


In introduced organisms, dispersal propensity is expected to increase during range expansion. This prediction is based on the assumption that phenotypic plasticity is low compared to genetic diversity, and an increase in dispersal can be counteracted by the Allee effect. Empirical evidence in support of these hypotheses is however lacking. The present study tested for evidence of differentiation in dispersal-related traits and the Allee effect in the wind-dispersed invasive Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae). We collected capitula from individuals in ten field populations, along an invasion route including the original introduction site in southern France. In addition, we conducted a common garden experiment from field-collected seeds and obtained capitula from individuals representing the same ten field populations. We analysed phenotypic variation in dispersal traits between field and common garden environments as a function of the distance between populations and the introduction site. Our results revealed low levels of phenotypic differentiation among populations. However, significant clinal variation in dispersal traits was demonstrated in common garden plants representing the invasion route. In field populations, similar trends in dispersal-related traits and evidence of an Allee effect were not detected. In part, our results supported expectations of increased dispersal capacity with range expansion, and emphasized the contribution of phenotypic plasticity under natural conditions.