The emergence of the hyperinvasive vine, Mikania micrantha (Asteraceae), via admixture and founder events inferred from population transcriptomics.
Biological invasions that involve well-documented rapid adaptations to new environments provide unequalled opportunities for testing evolutionary hypotheses. Mikania micrantha Kunth (Asteraceae), a perennial herbaceous vine native to tropical Central and South America, successfully invaded tropical Asia in the early 20th century. It is regarded as one of the most aggressive weeds in the world. To elucidate the molecular and evolutionary processes underlying this invasion, we extensively sampled this weed throughout its invaded range in South-East and South Asia and surveyed its genetic structure using variants detected from population transcriptomics. Clustering results suggest that more than one source population contributed to this invasion. Computer simulations using genomewide genetic variation support a scenario of admixture and founder events during invasion. The genes differentially expressed between native and invasive populations were found to be involved in oxidative and high light intensity stress responses, pointing to a possible ecological mechanism of adaptation. Our results provide a foundation for further detailed mechanistic and population studies of this ecologically and economically important invasion. This line of research promises to provide new mitigation strategies for invasive species as well as insights into mechanisms of adaptation.