Invasive success and the evolution of enhanced weaponry

Michal Gruntman, Sinja Zieger, Katja Tielbörger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A key hypothesis that has been proposed to explain plants' invasive success suggests that some invasive species produce allelochemicals that are novel against naïve neighbours at the introduced range and therefore provide an advantage there (novel weapons hypothesis - NWH). However, a seldom-studied hypothesis suggests that invasive populations could not only possess novel weapons, but might also evolve their enhanced production. Moreover, so far no study has examined both the novelty and evolution of allelopathic effects. Here, we examined these two hypotheses in a set of experiments with the highly invasive plant Impatiens glandulifera. In the first experiment, we examined the evolution of allelopathic ability by comparing the inhibitory effects of leaf extracts from native versus invasive I. glandulifera on the germination success of its dominant neighbour Urtica dioica. In the following experiments, we examined the NWH by comparing the germination success of U. dioica seeds collected at the native versus invasive range of I. glandulifera, in response to either leaf extracts or soil trained with invasive I. glandulifera. The results of the first experiment indicate that invasive I. glandulifera exert a stronger inhibitory effect on the germination of U. dioica compared to their native counterparts, providing support for the hypothesis that allelopathic ability can evolve at the invasive range. However, the results of the two following experiments reveal no difference in the response of U. dioica from the native versus invasive range of I. glandulifera, to the allelopathic effects of either the leaf extracts or the trained soil. These results therefore do not provide support for the NWH, and suggest that increased allelopathy in invasive I. glandulifera might have been selected for by other processes. The results of this study call for biogeographical experiments that will examine not only the novelty but also the evolution of allelopathic effects in invasive plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-65
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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