More than multiple introductions: Multiple taxa contribute to the genesis of the invasive California's wild artichoke thistle

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Abstract

The history of some invasive species is so complex that their origins can be difficult to determine. One example of such invasive species is the California invasive known as “wild artichoke thistle” (Cynara cardunculus var. sylvestris), found in natural and disturbed ecosystems. Wild artichoke thistle is a Mediterranean native and the progenitor of two domesticated horticultural taxa, artichoke and cardoon. Different hypotheses regarding the origins of California plants have included introductions by 19th century Italian immigrants and the de-domestication (evolutionary reversion to wild-type morphology) of feral (escaped, free-living) cultivars. Using microsatellite markers, we compared the genetic constitutions of 12 artichoke thistle populations in California with possible progenitor populations: 17 Spanish and Italian wild populations and eight different artichoke and cardoon cultivars. Each California population was compared with its putative progenitors using STRUCTURE analysis. Our results suggest that California's artichoke thistle populations are polyphyletic. Surprisingly, two-thirds of California's populations closely matched populations from the Iberian Peninsula. Three populations matched domesticated artichoke. One population appears to have wild and cultivar hybrid ancestry. Alleles specific to Italian populations were found at low frequencies in some California plants, suggesting that Italian wild plants may have been in California, but have left a trivial genetic legacy. Given that the de-domesticated plants in this study appear to be as invasive as the wild taxon, we conclude with a discussion of the role that ferality and de-domestication may have in plant invasions.

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