Term of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Lorne Wolfe

Committee Member 1

Lissa Leege

Committee Member 2

D. Kelly McLain


Alien plant species can cause significant economic and biological destruction by invading new environments and outcompeting native species. Through experimental research, the mechanisms by which these species invade can be better understood and applied to their management. Plantago virginica is a perennial herb, native to North America that has recently invaded China. It has been known to reduce crop growth and harbor diseases in the introduced range. A common garden study was conducted at the Georgia Southern University greenhouse, comparing twenty populations of P. virginica from both the native North American and invasive Chinese ranges. I examined if there were genetically based differences in a suite of life history, morphological and reproductive traits between populations from both the native and introduced range. Overall there were significant differences in traits among populations within regions. Specifically, Chinese populations germinated sooner, but produced reproductive structures and seeds later than their North American counterparts. Also, introduced populations had less phenotypic diversity in several traits compared the native populations. These patterns are consistent with the effects of natural selection, however, the role of random genetic drift cannot be ruled out. They also suggest that post-introduction phenotypic evolution has occurred in Chinese populations of P. virginica, contributing to its invasiveness.

Files over 10MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save as..."