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In less than a century since it was introduced to Australia, the South African beach daisy has drastically changed its appearance – a clear and unusual example of rapid evolution in plants, a new study led by UNSW scientists has shown.
A species of beach daisy from South Africa has undergone substantial and unexpected changes since arriving in Australia in the 1930s, a new study led by UNSW researchers has uncovered.
Findings - Today - Proceedings - Royal - Society
The findings published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B present a significant example of rapid evolution in plants, showing how an introduced species can rapidly change in a new environment, away from its native habitat and herbivores.
The beach daisy (Arctotheca populifolia) was introduced to Australia from its native South Africa in a bid to prevent coastal sand dunes from eroding. It is now a common sight along sand dunes in Australia, with distinctive silvery woolly leaves and yellow flowers.
Study - Research - Team - Beach - Daisy
In an earlier study, the research team had already harvested beach daisy seeds along coastal regions in South Africa and Australia, and then generated genetic maps of each population.
They did this by locating shared microsatellites – short sequences of DNA that are repeated in multiple locations in the genome of an organism.
Study - Today - Researchers - Genetics - Beach
For the study released today, the researchers used genetics to figure out exactly which beach in South Africa the current Australian plants came from, drawing a direct genetic link between the original and introduced populations.
"It's a key step that we got the parent population, because that is extremely rare and enables us to make the most precise evolutionary comparisons," says Claire Brandenburger, lead author and Ph.D. student at UNSW Sydney.
Link - Plants - Generations - Plants - Comparison
After establishing the genetic link, they then grew the plants over two generations to observe how the South African plants would grow in comparison to the Australian plants, all in controlled...
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