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High infraspecific diversity of wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus L.) naturally developed in central Argentina

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The sunflower's wild relative Helianthus annuus L. is a non-native invader in several regions of the world. It was introduced as an experimental forage plant in central Argentina six decades ago where it probably escaped and developed extended populations coexisting with the sunflower crop. If the invasive taxon was diffused without modifications, it would be expected to have phenotypic similarities with its parental sources. Nine populations representative of different geographic regions of central Argentina were compared with 17 populations from the USA (center of origin) in a common garden study at Bahía Blanca, Argentina using 47 phenotypic traits. The nine invasive wild populations were differentiated among themselves and from the native populations by plant form and life cycle traits, oil composition, inflorescence, and achene morphology. Populations from both continents shared traits related to domesticated sunflower, such as bract width over 0.8cm, but the frequency of this trait was higher in populations from Argentina. The high variability of wild H. annuus populations from Argentina did not reveal any founder effects. The diversity found in the invasive populations reflected about three-fourths of the phenotypic variability of those from the center of origin, even though the environmental conditions of the Argentine habitats represented only half of the variability present in the North American habitats. The current findings demonstrated that the invasive wild sunflower populations have developed within few decades a high degree of variability, which could be a source of a novel biodiversity useful as a genetic resource for sunflower crop improvement.
Cantamutto, Miguel , Presotto, Alejandro , Fernandez Moroni, Ivana , Alvarez, Daniel , Poverene, Mónica , Seiler, Gerald
Includes references
Flora Morphology, distribution, functional ecology of plants 2010, v. 205, no. 5
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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