Borrowed alleles and convergence in serpentine adaptation

Brian J. Arnold, Brett Lahner, Jeffrey M. DaCosta, Caroline M. Weisman, Jesse D. Hollister, David E. Salt, Kirsten Bomblies, Levi Yant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Serpentine barrens represent extreme hazards for plant colonists. These sites are characterized by high porosity leading to drought, lack of essential mineral nutrients, and phytotoxic levels of metals. Nevertheless, nature forged populations adapted to these challenges. Here, we use a population-based evolutionary genomic approach coupled with elemental profiling to assess how autotetraploid Arabidopsis arenosa adapted to a multichallenge serpentine habitat in the Austrian Alps. We first demonstrate that serpentine-adapted plants exhibit dramatically altered elemental accumulation levels in common conditions, and then resequence 24 autotetraploid individuals from three populations to perform a genome scan. We find evidence for highly localized selective sweeps that point to a polygenic, multitrait basis for serpentine adaptation. Comparing our results to a previous study of independent serpentine colonizations in the closely related diploid Arabidopsis lyrata in the United Kingdom and United States, we find the highest levels of differentiation in 11 of the same loci, providing candidate alleles for mediating convergent evolution. This overlap between independent colonizations in different species suggests that a limited number of evolutionary strategies are suited to overcome the multiple challenges of serpentine adaptation. Interestingly, we detect footprints of selection in A. arenosa in the context of substantial gene flow from nearby off-serpentine populations of A. arenosa, as well as from A. lyrata In several cases, quantitative tests of introgression indicate that some alleles exhibiting strong selective sweep signatures appear to have been introgressed from A. lyrata This finding suggests that migrant alleles may have facilitated adaptation of A. arenosa to this multihazard environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8320-8325
Number of pages6
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2016


  • adaptation
  • plant
  • gene flow
  • population genomics


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