J Syst Evol ›› 2014, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (6): 750-764.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12111

• Reviews & Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Rapid evolutionary divergence of an invasive weed from its crop ancestor and evidence for local diversification

1,2Jutta C. BURGER 2Norman C. ELLSTRAND*   

  1. 1(Irvine Ranch Conservancy, 4727 Portola Parkway, Irvine, CA 92620, USA)
    2(Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA)
  • Received:2014-02-20 Published:2014-11-13

Abstract: Feral rye is an invasive North American weed that evolved from domesticated rye in the last century. In order to determine how this weed diverged from its cultivated ancestor and whether it has evolved regional differences across its new range in the western United States, we planted both feral rye from different regions and its progenitor in three common garden sites spanning the North-South axis of that range (eastern Washington, northern California, and southern California, respectively). We measured seedling emergence, survival, vegetative growth, flowering phenology, and reproductive output concurrently across sites over a single growing season. All traits were found to be genetically based. All feral populations were typically shattering contrasting with domesticated rye's typically non-shattering seed head. They also flowered later, tillered more, grew shorter, and produced smaller seeds in at least one population. Near the center and proposed origin of its introduced range, all feral rye populations produced significantly more seed than cultivars. Northern feral populations flowered later than southern populations and cultivars. Shifts were not symmetrical: southern populations performed well at all sites. But northern populations showed more evidence of local adaptation, faring poorly in southern California. Clearly, feral rye has evolved from its cultivated progenitor by more than just acquiring shattering. Furthermore, it has diverged regionally, although not all populations are fully locally adapted. Notably, feral rye populations exhibited a greater range of phenotypes than rye cultivars, suggesting that its evolution is not simply due to selection acting on existing variation within individual cultivars.

Key words: ferality, invasive species, local adaptation, phenotypic plasticity, rapid evolution, Secale cereale, shattering.