Increase in mate availability without loss of self-incompatibility in the invasive species Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae)

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The evolution of the strength of self-incompatibility in Senecio inaequidens, a native of South Africa was investigated in relation to its invasion in Europe. Levels of self-incompatibility were estimated with hand-pollinations in five populations in greenhouse conditions. One population came from the native range of the species and four populations were sampled in Europe from two independent transects of colonization with old and recent populations. Contrary to Baker's law predictions, our results suggest that the species has a sporophytic self-incompatible system maintained in all populations. We suggest that the ability of S. inaequidens to colonize new sites with a self-incompatibility system is promoted by its ecological characteristics (perenniality, extended reproductive period, massive seed production, generalist pollinators). In addition, we found that mate availability was increased (1) in the introduced range compared to the native range, (2) in marginal versus central European populations. Possible explanations for this surprising result are discussed.

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