Plant Ecology and Evolution 151(3): 293-302, doi: 10.5091/plecevo.2018.1401
An experimentally introduced population of Brassica rapa (Brassicaceae). 2. Rapid evolution of phenotypic traits
expand article infoMichael R. Sekor, Steven J. Franks
‡ Louis Calder Biological Field Station, Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University, Armonk, NY, 10504, United States of America
Open Access

Background and aims – Introduced populations can potentially experience strong selection and rapid evolution. While some retrospective studies have shown rapid evolution in introduced populations in the past, few have directly tested for and characterized evolution as it occurs. Here we use an experimental introduction to directly observe and quantify evolution of multiple traits in a plant population introduced to a novel environment.

Methods – We experimentally introduced seeds of the annual plant Brassica rapa L. (Brassicaceae) from a location in southern California into multiple replicated plots in New York. We allowed the populations to naturally evolve for 3 years. Following the resurrection approach, we compared ancestors and descendants planted in common garden conditions in New York in multiple phenotypic traits.

Key results – Within only three generations, there was significant evolution of several morphological, phenological, and fitness traits, as well as substantial variation among traits. Despite selection for larger size during the three years following introduction, there was evolution of smaller size, earlier flowering time, and shorter duration of flowering. Although there were rapid evolutionary changes in traits, descendants did not have greater fitness than ancestors in New York, indicating a lack of evidence for adaptive evolution, at least over the timeframe of the study.

Conclusions – This study found rapid evolution of several morphological and phenological traits, including smaller plant size and shorter time to flowering, following introduction, confirming that evolution can rapidly occur during the early stages of colonization. Many traits evolved in the opposite direction predicted from phenotypic selection analysis, which suggests that the resurrection approach can reveal unanticipated evolutionary changes and can be very useful for studying contemporary evolution.

rapid evolution, plants, resurrection approach, morphology, flowering time, Brassica rapa, experimental introduction, introduced species


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