Retention of gene diversity during the spread of a non-native plant species

Katrien Vandepitte, Kenny Helsen, Kasper Van Acker, Joachim Mergeay, Olivier Honnay

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Spatial expansion, which is a crucial stage in the process to successful biological invasion, is anticipated to profoundly affect the magnitude and spatial distribution of genetic diversity in novel colonized areas. Here, we show that, contrasting common expectations, Pyrenean rocket (Sisymbrium austriacum), retained SNP diversity as this introduced plant species descended in the Meuse River Basin. Allele frequencies did not mirror between-population distances along the predominant expansion axis. Reconstruction of invasion history based on the genotypes of historical herbarium specimens indicated no influence of additional introductions or multiple points of entry on this nongradual pattern. Assignment analysis suggested the admixture of distant upstream sources in recently founded downstream populations. River dynamics seem to have facilitated occasional long-distance dispersal which brought diversity to the expansion front and so maintained evolutionary potential. Our findings highlight the merit of a historical framework in interpreting extant patterns of genetic diversity in introduced species and underscore the need to integrate long-distance dispersal events in theoretical work on the genetic consequences of range expansion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)3141-3150
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2017

Thematic list

  • Species and biotopes

EWI Biomedical sciences

  • B003-ecology


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