Genomics reveals the history of a complex plant invasion and improves the management of a biological invasion from the South African–Australian biotic exchange

Publication Name

Ecology and Evolution


Many plants exchanged in the global redistribution of species in the last 200 years, particularly between South Africa and Australia, have become threatening invasive species in their introduced range. Refining our understanding of the genetic diversity and population structure of native and alien populations, introduction pathways, propagule pressure, naturalization, and initial spread, can transform the effectiveness of management and prevention of further introductions. We used 20,221 single nucleotide polymorphisms to reconstruct the invasion of a coastal shrub, Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata (bitou bush) from South Africa, into eastern Australia (EAU), and Western Australia (WAU). We determined genetic diversity and population structure across the native and introduced ranges and compared hypothesized invasion scenarios using Bayesian modeling. We detected considerable genetic structure in the native range, as well as differentiation between populations in the native and introduced range. Phylogenetic analysis showed the introduced samples to be most closely related to the southern-most native populations, although Bayesian analysis inferred introduction from a ghost population. We detected strong genetic bottlenecks during the founding of both the EAU and WAU populations. It is likely that the WAU population was introduced from EAU, possibly involving an unsampled ghost population. The number of private alleles and polymorphic SNPs successively decreased from South Africa to EAU to WAU, although heterozygosity remained high. That bitou bush remains an invasion threat in EAU, despite reduced genetic diversity, provides a cautionary biosecurity message regarding the risk of introduction of potentially invasive species via shipping routes.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





Article Number


Funding Number

OP 4097/2019

Funding Sponsor

Australian Government



Link to publisher version (DOI)