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No Evolutionary Shift in the Mating System of North American Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Asteraceae) Following Its Introduction to China

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031935
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Plant Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Evolutionary Processes
  • Population Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Population Biology
  • Medicine


The mating system plays a key role during the process of plant invasion. Contemporary evolution of uniparental reproduction (selfing or asexuality) can relieve the challenges of mate limitation in colonizing populations by providing reproductive assurance. Here we examined aspects of the genetics of colonization in Ambrosia artemisiifolia, a North American native that is invasive in China. This species has been found to possess a strong self-incompatibility system and have high outcrossing rates in North America and we examined whether there has been an evolutionary shift towards the dependence on selfing in the introduced range. Specifically, we estimated outcrossing rates in one native and five invasive populations and compared levels of genetic diversity between North America and China. Based on six microsatellite loci we found that, like the native North American population, all five Chinese populations possessed a completely outcrossing mating system. The estimates of paternity correlations were low, ranging from 0.028–0.122, which suggests that populations possessed ∼8–36 pollen donor parents contributing to each maternal plant in the invasive populations. High levels of genetic diversity for both native and invasive populations were found with the unbiased estimate of gene diversity ranging from 0.262–0.289 for both geographic ranges based on AFLP markers. Our results demonstrate that there has been no evolutionary shift from outcrossing to selfing during A. artemisiifolia's invasion of China. Furthermore, high levels of genetic variation in North America and China indicate that there has been no erosion of genetic variance due to a bottleneck during the introduction process. We suggest that the successful invasion of A. artemisiifolia into Asia was facilitated by repeated introductions from multiple source populations in the native range creating a diverse gene pool within Chinese populations.

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