When invasion increases population genetic structure: a study withCentaurea diffusa

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Abstract

Biological invasions offer excellent systems to study the evolutionary processes involved in introductions of species to new ranges. Molecular markers can reveal invasion histories and the effects of introductions on amounts and structuring of genetic variation. We used five polymorphic microsatellite loci to elucidate genetic diversity and population structure between native range and introduced range populations of a prominent North American rangeland weed, Centaurea diffusa (Asteraceae). We found that the total number of alleles and the number of private alleles was slightly higher in the native Eurasian range, and that allelic richness did not differ between the ranges, indicating overall levels of diversity were similar in Eurasia and North America. It therefore seems unlikely that this invasion has been affected by genetic bottlenecks or founder effects. Indeed, results of assignment tests suggest that multiple introductions have contributed to North America's C. diffusa invasion. Additionally, assignment tests show that both Eurasian and North American sites had a strong pattern of mixed genetic ancestry. This mixed assignment corresponded to a lack of geographic population structure among Eurasian samples. The lack of population structure in the native range conflicts with general expectations and findings to date for invasion genetics, and cautions that even species' native ranges may show signs of recent ecological upheaval. Despite the mixed assignments, North American samples showed strong population structure, suggesting that the invasion has been characterized by long-range dispersal of genetically distinct propagules across the introduced range.

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