Additive genetic variance in populations of Ambrosia artemisiifolia (ragweed)

Project Description

Introduced species can have economic and ecological impacts and are recognized as prime contributors to global environmental change. Therefore, an important area of study in the field of evolutionary ecology focuses on how some introduced species manage to thrive in novel environments. One possibility is rapid adaptation. In order to adapt to a new environment, there must be genetic variation in a population. Traits that are likely important for introduced populations are quantitative, in other words, they are controlled by many genes. I plan to measure this type of genetic variation in native and introduced populations of Ambrosia artemisiifolia (ragweed). Ragweed is native to North America, but has been introduced to Europe, where in some areas, it is now an invasive species. By examining quantitative genetic variation, I can compare the ability of introduced and native populations to respond to selection pressures.

Additional Scientific Information

Most work on species invasions has focused on ecological causes and consequences, while the evolutionary determinants and outcomes have only recently been emphasized. It is increasingly recognized that population-level factors such as genetic diversity will have major impacts on the ability of a species to establish in a novel environment and to respond to natural selection. Despite its importance for local adaptation, there is a dearth of comparisons of additive genetic variance between introduced and native populations and researchers have called for more studies on introduced species from a quantitative genetics perspective. Using the annual weed Ambrosia artemisiifolia, I will ask, how do additive genetic variance and G matrices compare in introduced and native plant populations? Is VA differentiated within each range? Are there correlations between traits that could constrain or accelerate adaptation?

Principal InvestigatorJohn Stinchcombe
Researcher(s): Brechann McGoey

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