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Invasive plants and enemy release: Evolution of trait means and trait correlations in Ulex europaeus

Abstract : Several hypotheses that attempt to explain invasive processes are based on the fact that plants have been introduced without their natural enemies. Among them, the EICA (Evolution of Increased Competitive Ability) hypothesis is the most influential. It states that, due to enemy release, exotic plants evolve a shift in resource allocation from defence to reproduction or growth. In the native range of the invasive species Ulex europaeus, traits involved in reproduction and growth have been shown to be highly variable and genetically correlated. Thus, in order to explore the joint evolution of life history traits and susceptibility to seed predation in this species, we investigated changes in both trait means and trait correlations. To do so, we compared plants from native and invaded regions grown in a common garden. According to the expectations of the EICA hypothesis, we observed an increase in seedling height. However, there was little change in other trait means. By contrast, correlations exhibited a clear pattern: the correlations between life history traits and infestation rate by seed predators were always weaker in the invaded range than in the native range. In U. europaeus, the role of enemy release in shaping life history traits thus appeared to imply trait correlations rather than trait means. In the invaded regions studied, the correlations involving infestation rates and key life history traits such as flowering phenology, growth and pod density were reduced, enabling more independent evolution of these key traits and potentially facilitating local adaptation to a wide range of environments. These results led us to hypothesise that a relaxation of genetic correlations may be implied in the expansion of invasive species.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 6:23:14 PM
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Benjamin Hornoy, Michèle Tarayre, Maxime Hervé, Luc Gigord, Anne Atlan. Invasive plants and enemy release: Evolution of trait means and trait correlations in Ulex europaeus. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2011, 6 (10), pp.e26275. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0026275.t001⟩. ⟨hal-00654070⟩

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