Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 12, pp 3973–3987 | Cite as

Patterns of genetic variation in invasive populations of Gunnera tinctoria: an analysis at three spatial scales

Original Paper


While there is evidence that the genetic structure of invasive populations may be distinct from native populations, it has proved difficult to establish the causes of any variation owing in part to the range of evolutionary processes involved. In order to assess differences in the genetic structure of invasive populations of Gunnera tinctoria, five native populations were compared to 23 geographically widely dispersed invasive populations using amplified fragment length polymorphic markers (AFLPs). In total, 221 individuals were sampled at three spatial scales: inter-regional, within-region, and at a high-resolution local scale. It was observed that there were high levels of genetic variation between most populations, that invasive populations were generally distinct from both native populations and from each other and that genetic variation away from founding populations can occur relatively quickly and within a small geographic area. Changes in the pattern of genetic variation observed in invasive populations strongly indicated that founder effects and genetic drift played a significant role in shaping their genetic structure. It was further concluded that gene flow had a homogenizing effect on the structure of invasive populations occurring in close proximity, increasing their allele content and potentially contributing to their successful establishment.


AFLP analysis Gunnera tinctoria Invasive species Non-adaptive evolution Population genetics Spatial scales 



This study was funded by a University College Dublin Research Demonstratorship awarded to Mark Fennell. We would like to thank Craig Hornby, Cristina Armstrong, Javier Atalah, Margherita Gioria, Luis Silva, Curtis Daehler and Kieran MacKevitt for sample collection; Tom Fennell and Joan Forsdyke for proof reading; and Karen Bacon for help with statistical analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biology and Environmental ScienceUniversity College DublinBelfield, Dublin 4Ireland

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