Multi-phase US spread and habitat switching of a post-Columbian invasive, Sorghum halepense
Publication: PLOS One
Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) is a striking example of a post-Columbian founder event. This natural experiment within ecological time-scales provides a unique opportunity for understanding patterns of continent-wide genetic diversity following range expansion. Microsatellite markers were used for population genetic analyses including leaf-optimized Neighbor-Joining tree, pairwise FST, mismatch analysis, principle coordinate analysis, Tajima’s D, Fu’s F and Bayesian clusterings of population structure. Evidence indicates two geographically distant introductions of divergent genotypes, which spread across much of the US in <200 years. Based on geophylogeny, gene flow patterns can be inferred to have involved five phases. Centers of genetic diversity have shifted from two introduction sites separated by ~2000 miles toward the middle of the range, consistent with admixture between genotypes from the respective introductions. Genotyping provides evidence for a ‘habitat switch’ from agricultural to non-agricultural systems and may contribute to both Johnsongrass ubiquity and aggressiveness. Despite lower and more structured diversity at the invasion front, Johnsongrass continues to advance northward into cooler and drier habitats. Association genetic approaches may permit identification of alleles contributing to the habitat switch or other traits important to weed/invasive management and/or crop improvement.