Rapid evolution of leaf physiology in an introduced beach daisy

Brandenburger, Claire R.; Cooke, Julia; Sherwin, William B. and Moles, Angela T. (2019). Rapid evolution of leaf physiology in an introduced beach daisy. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286(1909), article no. 20191103.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1103


Photosynthesis is a key biological process. However, we know little about whether plants change their photosynthetic strategy when introduced to a new range. We located the most likely source population for the South African beach daisy Arctotheca populifolia introduced to Australia in the 1930s, and ran a common-garden experiment measuring 10 physiological and morphological leaf traits associated with photosynthesis. Based on predictions from theory, and higher rainfall in the introduced range, we hypothesized that introduced plants would have a (i) higher photosynthetic rate, (ii) lower water-use efficiency (WUE) and (iii) higher nitrogen-use efficiency. However, we found that introduced A. populifolia had a lower photosynthetic rate, higher WUE and lower nitrogen-use efficiency than did plants from Arniston, South Africa. Subsequent site visits suggested that plants in Arniston may be able to access moisture on a rocky shelf, while introduced plants grow on sandy beaches where water can quickly dissipate. Our unexpected findings highlight that: (1) it is important to compare introduced species to their source population for an accurate assessment of evolutionary change; (2) rainfall is not always a suitable proxy for water availability and (3) introduced species often undergo evolutionary changes, but without detailed ecological information we may not be able to accurately predict the direction of these changes.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions