, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 165–182 | Cite as

Trends and rates of microevolution in plants

  • Elizabeth Bone
  • Agnes Farres


Evidence for rapid evolutionary change in plants in response to changing environmental conditions is widespread in the literature. However, evolutionary change in plant populations has not been quantified using a rate metric that allows for comparisons between and within studies. One objective of this paper is to estimate rates of evolution using data from previously published studies to begin a foundation for comparison and to examine trends and rates of microevolution in plants. We use data gathered from studies of plant adaptations in response to heavy metals, herbicide, pathogens, changes in pH, global change, and novel environments. Rates of evolution are estimated in the form of two metrics, darwins and haldanes. A second objective is to demonstrate how estimated rates could be used to address specific microevolutionary questions. For example, we examine how evolutionary rate changes with time, life history correlates of evolutionary rates, and whether some types of traits evolve faster than others. We also approach the question of how rates can be used to predict patterns of evolution under novel selection pressures using two contemporary examples: introductions of non-native species to alien environments and global change.

darwins global change haldanes introductions life history microevolution rates of evolution 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abbott, R.J., 1992. Plant invasions interspecific hybridization and the evolution of new plant taxa. Trends Ecol. Evol. 7: 401–405.Google Scholar
  2. Antonovics, J. & A.D. Bradshaw, 1970. Evolution in closely adjacent plant populations. VII Clinal patterns of a mine boundary. Heredity 25: 349–362.Google Scholar
  3. Arnold, M.L., 1997. Natural Hybridization and Evolution. Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Barnes, J., J. Bender, T. Lyons & A. Borland, 1999. Natural and man-made selection for air pollution resistance. J. Exp. Bot. 50: 1423–1435.Google Scholar
  5. Barrett, S.C.H., 1983. Crop mimicry in weeds. Econ. Bot. 37: 255–282.Google Scholar
  6. Barrett, S.C.H., 2000. Microevolutionary influences of global changes on plant invasions, pp. 115–139 in Invasive Species in a Changing World, edited by H.A. Mooney & R.J. Hobbs. Island Press, Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  7. Baur, B. & A. Erhardt, 1995. Habitat fragmentation and habitat alterations: principal threats to most animal and plant species. GAIA 4: 221–226.Google Scholar
  8. Bazzaz, F.A., M. Jasieński, S.C. Thomas & P. Wayne, 1995. Microevolutionary responses in experimental populations of plants to CO2-enriched environments: parallel results from model systems. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 92: 8161–8165.Google Scholar
  9. Bell, J.N.B., M.R. Ashmore & G.B. Wilson, 1991. Ecological genetics and chemical modifications of the atmosphere, pp. 33–59 in Ecological Genetics and Air Pollution, edited by G.E. Taylor, L.F. Pitelka & M.T. Clegg. Springer-Verlag, New York, Berlin, London, Tokyo.Google Scholar
  10. Blossey, B. & R. Nötzold, 1995. Evolution of increased competitive ability in invasive nonindigenous plants: a hypothesis. J. Ecol. 83: 887–889.Google Scholar
  11. Bradshaw, A.D. & T. McNeilly, 1991a. Evolution in relation to environmental stress, pp. 11–32 in Ecological Genetics and Air Pollution, edited by G.E. Taylor, L.F. Pitelka & M.T. Clegg. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.Google Scholar
  12. Bradshaw, A.D. & T. McNeilly, 1991b. Evolutionary response to global climate change. Ann. Bot. 67: 5–14.Google Scholar
  13. Burdon, J.J. & J.N. Thompson, 1995. Changed patterns of resistance in a population of Linum marginale attacked by the rust pathogen Melampsora lini. J. Ecol. 83: 199–206.Google Scholar
  14. Burger, R. & M. Lynch, 1995. Evolution and extinction in a changing environment: a quantitative-genetic analysis. Evolution 49: 151–163.Google Scholar
  15. Carney, S.E., K.A. Gardner & L.H. Rieseberg, 2000. Evolutionary changes over the fifty-year history of a hybrid population of sunflowers (Helianthus). Evolution 54: 462–474.Google Scholar
  16. Carroll, S.P., H. Dingle, T.R. Famula & C.W. Fox, 2001. Genetic architecture of adaptive differentiation in evolving host races of the Soapberry Bug, Jadera haematoloma. Genetica 112-113: 257–272.Google Scholar
  17. Cody, M.L. & J.M. Overton, 1996. Short-term evolution of reduced dispersal in island plant populations. J. Ecol. 84: 53–61.Google Scholar
  18. Crooks, J. & M.E. Soulé, 1996. Lag times in population explosions of invasive species: causes and implications, pp. 39–46 in Proceedings of the Norway/UN Conference on Alien Species, edited by O.T. Sanlund, P.T. Schei, & Å. Viken. Directorate for Nature Management and Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway.Google Scholar
  19. Curtis, P.S., D.J. Klus, S. Kalisz & S.J. Tonser, 1996. Intraspecific variation in CO2 responses in Raphanus raphanistrum and Plantago lanceolata: Assessing the potential for evolutionary change with rising atmospheric CO2, pp. 13–22 in Carbon Dioxide, Populations, and Communities, edited by C. Körner & F.A. Bazzaz. Academic Press, San Diego.Google Scholar
  20. Daehler, C.C. & D.R. Strong, 1997. Reduced herbivore resistance in introduced smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) after a century of herbivore-free growth. Oecologia 110: 99–108.Google Scholar
  21. Davies, M.S. & R.W. Snaydon, 1976. Rapid population differentiation in a mosaic environment. III. Measures of selection pressures. Heredity 36: 59–66.Google Scholar
  22. Davis, M.B. & R.G. Shaw, 2001. Range shifts and adaptive responses to quaternary climate change. Science 292: 673–679.Google Scholar
  23. Davison, A.W. & J.D. Barnes, 1998. Effects of ozone on wild plants. New Phytol. 139: 135–151.Google Scholar
  24. Davison, A.W. & K. Reiling, 1995. A rapid change in ozone resistance of Plantago major after summers with high ozone concentrations. New Phytol. 131: 337–344.Google Scholar
  25. Debinski, D.M. & R.D. Holt, 2000. A survey and overview of habitat fragmentation experiments. Conserv. Biol. 14: 342–355.Google Scholar
  26. Dudley, J.W., 1977. Seventy-six generations of selection for oil and protein percentage in maize, pp. 459–473 in Proceedings of the International Conference on Quantitative Genetics, edited by E. Pollak, O. Kempthorne & T.B. Bailey. Iowa State University, Ames, IA.Google Scholar
  27. Dudley, J.W. & R.J. Lambert, 1992. Ninety generations of selection for oil and protein in maize. Maydica 37: 1–7.Google Scholar
  28. Ernst, W.H.O., 1999. Evolution of plants on soils anthropogenically contaminated by heavy metals, pp. 13–27 in Plant Evolution in Man-made Habitats, edited by L.W.D. van Raamsdonk & J.C.M. den Nijs. Hugo de Vries Laboratory, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  29. Erskine, W., J. Smartt & F. Muehlbauer, 1994. Mimicry of lentil and the domestication of common vetch and grass pea. Econ. Bot. 48: 326–332.Google Scholar
  30. Frey, K.J. & J.B. Holland, 1999. Nine cycles of recurrent selection for increased groat-oil content in oat. Crop Sci. 39: 1636–1641.Google Scholar
  31. Gilchrist, G.W., R.B. Huey & L. Serra, 2001. Rapid evolution of wing size clines in Drosophila subobscura. Genetica 112-113: 273–286.Google Scholar
  32. Gingerich, P.D., 1983. Rates of evolution: effects of time and temporal scaling. Science 222: 159–161.Google Scholar
  33. Goodwin, B.J., A.J. McAllister & L. Fahrig, 1999. Predicting invasiveness of plant species based on biological information. Conserv. Biol. 13: 422–426.Google Scholar
  34. Grant, P.R. & B.R. Grant, 1995. Predicting microevolutionary responses to directional selection on heritable variation. Evolution 49: 241–251.Google Scholar
  35. Haldane, J.B.S., 1949. Suggestions as to quantitative measurement of rates of evolution. Evolution 3: 51–56.Google Scholar
  36. Haugen, T.O. & L.A. Vøllestad, 2001. A century of life-history evolution in grayling. Genetica 112-113: 475–491.Google Scholar
  37. Heap, I.M., 1997. The occurrence of herbicide-resistant weeds worldwide. Pest. Sci. 51: 235–243.Google Scholar
  38. Hendry, A.P. & M.T. Kinnison, 1999. The pace of modern life: measuring rates of microevolution. Evolution 53: 1637–1653.Google Scholar
  39. Houle, D., 1992. Comparing evolvability and variability of quantitative traits. Genetics 130: 195–204.Google Scholar
  40. Huey, R.B., G.W. Gilchrist, M.L. Carlson, D. Berrigan & L. Serra, 2000. Rapid evolution of a geographic cline in size in an introduced fly. Science 287: 308–309.Google Scholar
  41. Jain, S.K. & A.D. Bradshaw, 1966. Evolutionary divergence among adjacent plant populations. I: evidence and its theoretical analysis. Heredity 21: 407–441.Google Scholar
  42. Kiang, Y.T., 1982. Local differentiation of Anthoxanthum odoratum L. populations on roadsides. Am. Midland Natural. 107: 340–350.Google Scholar
  43. Kingsolver, J.G., H.E. Hoekstra, J.M. Hoekstra, D. Berrigan, S.N. Vignieri, C.E. Hill, A. Hoang, P. Gilbert & P. Beerli, 2001. The strength of phenotypic selection in natural populations. Am. Natural. 157: 245–261.Google Scholar
  44. Kinnison, M.T. & A.P. Hendry, 2001. The pace of modern life. II: from rates to pattern and process. Genetica 112-113: 145–164.Google Scholar
  45. Kowarik, I., 1995. Time lags in biological invasions with regard to the success and failure of invasive species, pp. 15–38 in Plant Invasions: General Aspects and Special Problems, edited by P. Pyšek, K. Prach, M. Rejmánek & M. Wade. SPB Academic Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  46. Lambert, R.J., D.E. Alexander, E.L. Mollring & B. Wiggens, 1997. Selection for increased oil concentration in maize kernels and associated changes in several kernel plants. Maydica 42: 39–43.Google Scholar
  47. Linhart, Y.B. & M.C. Grant, 1996. Evolutionary significance of local genetic differentiation in plants. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Systemat. 27: 237–277.Google Scholar
  48. Lynch, M., 1990. The rate of morphological evolution in mammals from the standpoint of the neutral expectation. Am. Natural. 136: 727–741.Google Scholar
  49. Mack, R.N., 1996. Predicting the identity and fate of plant invaders: emergent and emerging approaches. Biol. Conserv. 78: 107–121.Google Scholar
  50. Macnair, M.R., S.E. Smith & Q.J. Cumbes, 1993. Heritability and distribution of variation in degree of copper tolerance in Mimulus guttatus at Copperopolis, California. Heredity 71: 445–455.Google Scholar
  51. Mallory-Smith, C., P. Hendrickson & G. Mueller-Warrant, 1999. Cross-resistance of primisulfuron-resistant Bromus tectorum L. (downy brome) to sulfosulfuron. Weed Sci. 47: 256–257.Google Scholar
  52. Merilä, J., B.C. Sheldon & L.E.B. Kruuk, 2001. Explaining stasis: microevolutionary studies in natural populations. Genetica 112- 113: 199–222.Google Scholar
  53. Mousseau, T.A. & D.A. Roff, 1987. Natural selection and the heritability of fitness components. Heredity 59: 181–197.Google Scholar
  54. Neuffer, B. & M. Linde, 1999. Capsella bursa-pastoris - colonization and adaptation; a globe trotter conquers the world, pp. 49–72 in Plant Evolution in Man-made Habitats, edited by L.W.D. van Raamsdonk & J.C.M. den Nijs. Hugo de Vries Laboratory, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  55. Nordal, I., K.B. Haraldsen, A. Ergon & A.B. Eriksen, 1999. Copper resistance and genetic diversity in Lychnis alpina (Caryophyllaceae) populations on mining sites. Folia Geobot. 34: 471–481.Google Scholar
  56. Powles, S.B., D.F. Lorraine-Colwill, J.J. Dellow & C. Preston, 1998. Evolved resistance to glyphosate in rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) in Australia. Weed Sci. 46: 604–607.Google Scholar
  57. Pyšek, P., 1998. Alien and native species in Central European urban floras: a quantitative comparison. J. Biogeography 25: 155–163.Google Scholar
  58. Rejmánek, M., 2000. Invasive plants: approaches and predictions. Austral Ecol. 25: 497–506.Google Scholar
  59. Reznick, D.N. & C.K. Ghalambor, 2001. The population ecology of contemporary adaptations: what empirical studies reveal about the conditions that promote adaptive evolution. Genetica 112- 113: 183–198.Google Scholar
  60. Reznick, D.N., F.H. Shaw, F.H. Rodd & R.G. Shaw, 1997. Evaluation of the rate of evolution in natural populations of guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Science 275: 1934–1937.Google Scholar
  61. Sauer, J.D., 1988. Plant Migration: The Dynamics of Geographic Patterning in Seed Plant Species. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  62. Shaw, J., J. Antonovics & L.E. Anderson, 1987. Inter-and intra specific variation of mosses in tolerance to copper and zinc. Evolution 41: 1312–1325.Google Scholar
  63. Schluter, D., 2000. The Ecology of Adaptive Radiation. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  64. Snaydon, R.W., 1970. Rapid population differentiation in a mosaic environment. I: the response of Anthoxanthum odoratum to soils. Evolution 24: 257–269.Google Scholar
  65. Smith, S.D., T.E. Huxman, S.F. Zitzer, T.N. Charlet, D.C. Housman, J.S. Coleman, L.K. Fenstermaker, J.R. Seemann & R.S. Nowak, 2000. Elevated CO2 increases productivity and invasive species success in an arid ecosystem. Nature 408: 79–82.Google Scholar
  66. Snaydon, R.W. & M.S. Davies, 1972. Rapid population differentiation in a mosaic environment. II: morphological variation in Anthoxanthum odoratum. Evolution 26: 390–405.Google Scholar
  67. Snaydon, R.W. & M.W. Davies, 1982. Rapid divergence of plant populations in response to recent changes in soil conditions. Evolution 36: 289–297.Google Scholar
  68. Stearns, S.C., 1992. The Evolution of Life Histories. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  69. Thomas, S.C. & M. Jasieński, 1996. Genetic variability and the nature of microevolutionary responses to elevated CO2, pp. 51–81 in Carbon Dioxide, Populations, and Communities, edited by C. Körner & F.A. Bazzaz. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  70. Ward, J.K., J. Antonovics, R.B. Thomas & B.R. Strain, 2000. Is atmospheric CO2 a selective agent on model C3 annuals? Oecologia 123: 330–341.Google Scholar
  71. Warwick, S.I. & E. Small, 1999. Invasive plant species: evolutionary risk from transgenic crops, pp. 235–256 in Plant Evolution in Man-made Habitats, edited by L.W.D. van Raamsdonk & J.C.M. den Nijs. Hugo de Vries Laboratory, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  72. Whitfield, C.P., A.W. Davison & T.W. Ashenden, 1997. Artificial selection and heritability of ozone resistance in two populations of Plantago major. New Phytol. 137: 645–655.Google Scholar
  73. Williamson, M. & A. Fitter, 1996. The varying success of invaders. Ecology 77: 1666–1670.Google Scholar
  74. Willis, A.J., J. Memmott & R.I. Forrester, 2000. Is there evidence for the post-invasion evolution of increased size among invasive plant species? Ecol. Lett. 3: 275–283.Google Scholar
  75. Wu, L. & J. Antonovics, 1976. Experimental genetics of Plantago. II: lead tolerance in P. lanceolata and Cynodon dactylon from a roadside. Ecology 37: 205–208.Google Scholar
  76. Wu, L., A.D. Bradshaw & D.A. Thurman, 1975. The potential for evolution of heavy metal tolerance in plants. III: the rapid evolution of copper tolerance in Agrostis stolonifera. Heredity 34: 165–187.Google Scholar
  77. Wu, L. & A.L. Kruckeberg, 1985. Copper tolerance in two legume species from a copper mine habitat. New Phytol. 99: 565–570.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Bone
    • 1
  • Agnes Farres
    • 2
  1. 1.Organismic and Evolutionary Biology ProgramUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Plant Biology ProgramUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

Personalised recommendations