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Thu Aug 29, 2019, 12:48 PM

What a Virginia wildflower can tell us about climate change

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
August 29,019

...In a study to be published Thursday in the journal Evolution Letters, researchers at the University of Virginia and Washington State University reveal how the colonization of new environments after the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago, fundamentally altered the American bellflower, a wildflower native to Virginia.

Laura Galloway, a UVA professor of biology and co-author of the study...found that populations with the longest expansion routes - those farthest from their area of origin -evolved the ability to self-fertilize, but also accumulated mutations that can be harmful to the well-being of the species over time.

"These combined changes - self-fertilization and detrimental mutations - provide strong evidence that while colonizing new environments causes plants to adapt to the absence of mates in those environments - and that's why they can now self-fertilize - at the same time, it creates genetic change that reduces overall vigor," Galloway said.

"Biologists think that current climate change means species will either adapt, die or migrate," Galloway said. "While migration is often viewed as a means for species to proliferate in new environments, in this research we find that there also are inherent perils of expansion, such as a shallow gene pool. While migration will lead to individuals that are better able to reproduce in the small populations expected in new habitats, it may also cause genetic change that limits their ability to survive in the long term."

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/uov-wav082919.php

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