TTrinity College Dublin plant scientists Jane Stout, Karl Duffy, Paul Egan, Maeve Harbourne and Trevor Hodkinson have published a new paper in the online Oxford journal AOB Plants.
Genetic diversity and floral width variation in introduced and native populations of a long-lived woody perennial
Abstract: Populations of introduced species in their new environments are expected to differ from native populations, due to processes such as genetic drift, founder effects, and local adaptation, which can often result in rapid phenotypic change. Such processes can also lead to changes in the genetic structure of these populations. This study investigated populations of Rhododendron ponticum in its introduced range in Ireland, where it is severely invasive, to determine both genetic and flower width diversity and differentiation. We compared six introduced Irish populations with two populations from R. ponticum's native range in Spain, using Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) and Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) genetic markers. We measured flower width, a trait that may affect pollinator visitation, from four Irish and four Spanish populations by measuring both the width at the corolla tip and tube base (nectar holder width). With both genetic markers, populations were differentiated between Ireland and Spain and from each other in both countries. However, populations displayed low genetic diversity (mean Nei's genetic diversity=0.22), with the largest proportion (76-93%) of genetic variation contained within, rather than between, populations. Although corolla width was highly variable between individuals within populations, tube width was significantly wider (>0.5 mm) in introduced, compared with native, populations. Our results show that the same species can have genetically distinct populations in both invasive and native regions, and that differences in floral width may occur, possibly in response to ecological sorting processes or local adaptation to pollinator communities. The paper can be download for free from the Oxford Journals link: http://aobpla.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/12/19/aobpla.plu087.full.pdf+html
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Professor Nick Gray