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An Evolution Revolution

An Evolution Revolution: The rapid evolution of an introduced plant

Introduced species are changing much faster than we thought, and in surprising ways. Since arriving in Australia in the 1930s, the South African beach daisy Arctotheca populifolia has undergone a suite of striking changes in morphology, physiology, defence and life-history. With so many rapid evolutionary changes in this introduced plant, we now ask the intriguing question: could Australia have a new species on its coastline?

In this seminar I will present some of the key findings from my PhD which I completed at UNSW in 2019. We used genetic data to locate the original South African source population, and then set up a common-environment glasshouse experiment to compare four introduced Australian populations with their South African source population. This provided a precise and powerful method for detecting evolutionary change - and is the first study of its kind investigating a wide range of morphological, physiological, defence and life-history traits in an introduced plant species. The over-arching theme of my work is that evolution happens quickly, but not always in the direction predicted by theory; this has wide-ranging implications for how we view and manage introduced species. It also provides an important indication that some plant species may be able to rapidly adapt to changes in climate.

Dr Claire Brandenburger from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney presented her work in an online seminar on Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021. Watch again this seminar in the video below:

For more information about our seminars and future announcements, please contact Hervé Sauquet.