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Genetica

, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 205–216 | Cite as

Resolving the genetic basis of invasiveness and predicting invasions

  • Cynthia Weinig
  • Marcus T. Brock
  • Jenny A. Dechaine
  • Stephen M. Welch
ORIGINAL PAPER

Abstract

Considerable effort has been invested in determining traits underlying invasiveness. Yet, identifying a set of traits that commonly confers invasiveness in a range of species has proven elusive, and almost nothing is known about genetic loci affecting invasive success. Incorporating genetic model organisms into ecologically relevant studies is one promising avenue to begin dissecting the genetic underpinnings of invasiveness. Molecular biologists are rapidly characterizing genes mediating developmental responses to diverse environmental cues, i.e., genes for plasticity, as well as to environmental factors likely to impose strong selection on invading species, e.g., resistance to herbivores and competitors, coordination of life-history events with seasonal changes, and physiological tolerance of heat, drought, or cold. Here, we give an overview of molecular genetic tools increasingly used to characterize the genetic basis of adaptation and that may be used to begin identifying genetic mechanisms of invasiveness. Given the divergent traits that affect invasiveness, “invasiveness genes” common to many clades are unlikely, but the combination of developmental genetic advances with further evolutionary studies and modeling may provide a framework for identifying genes that account for invasiveness in related species.

Keywords

Adaptive strategies Arabidopsis thaliana Competitive ability Invasive species Phenotypic plasticity Quantitative trait loci 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Earlier versions of this paper benefited from the comments of C.E. Lee, and three anonymous reviewers. The paper was invited for the 2004 Society for the Study of Evolution Symposium “All Stressed Out and Nowhere to Go: Does Evolvability Limit Adaptation in Invasive Species?” The research on Arabidopsis thaliana described here has been supported by NSF grant DBI-0227103 and USDA-AES grant MIN-71–048 to CW and, in part, by NSF grant 0425759 to SW.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia Weinig
    • 1
  • Marcus T. Brock
    • 1
  • Jenny A. Dechaine
    • 1
  • Stephen M. Welch
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of MinnesotaSt PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of AgronomyKansas State UniversityManhattenUSA

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