SYMP 1-1 - Crops gone wild: Evolution of weeds and invasives from domesticated ancestors

Monday, August 8, 2011: 1:40 PM
Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center
Norman Ellstrand, Botany & Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA

The evolution of problematic plants, whether weeds or invasives, is attracting increasing interest. Problematic plants that have evolved from domesticated ancestors have certain advantages for study. Because of their economic importance, domesticated plants are generally well-characterized and readily available for ecogenetic comparison with their wild descendants. Thus, the evolutionary history of crop descendants has the potential to be reconstructed in better detail than other problem plants.


Updating a prior study, I present well-established examples of invasives and weeds for which genetic and/or ethnobotanical evidence has confirmed their evolution from domesticates. Despite the advantages of such systems, there are surprisingly few cases. I examine the list for generalizations and then turn to some selected cases to reveal the evolutionary pathways by which plant pests have evolved from domesticates. At the moment, crop descendants remain underexploited for evolutionary study. Promising evolutionary research opportunities for these systems are abundant and worthy of pursuit.

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