Evolution of increased photosynthetic capacity and its underlying traits in invasive Jacobaea vulgaris.
The evolution of increased competitive ability (EICA) hypothesis and the shifting defense hypothesis (SDH) predict that evolutionary changes occur in a suite of traits related to defense and growth in invasive plant species as result of the absence of specialist herbivores. We tested how this suite of traits changed due to the absence of specialist herbivores in multiple invasive regions that differ in climatic conditions with native and invasive Jacobaea vulgaris in a controlled environment. We hypothesized that invasive J. vulgaris in all invasive regions have (i) a higher plant growth and underlying traits, such as photosynthetic capacity, (ii) lower regrowth-related traits, such as carbohydrate storage, and (iii) an increased plant qualitative defense, such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Our results show that invasive J. vulgaris genotypes have evolved a higher photosynthetic rate and total PA concentration but a lower investment in root carbohydrates, which supports the SDH hypothesis. All the traits changed consistently and significantly in the same direction in all four invasive regions, indicative of a parallel evolution. Climatic and soil variables did differ between ranges but explained only a very small part of the variation in trait values. The latter suggests that climate and soil changes were not the main selective forces on these traits.