Evolution in response to climate in the native and introduced ranges of a globally distributed plant

Simon G. Innes, James S. Santangelo, Nicholas J. Kooyers, Kenneth M. Olsen, Marc T.J. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The extent to which species can adapt to spatiotemporal climatic variation in their native and introduced ranges remains unresolved. To address this, we examined how clines in cyanogenesis (hydrogen cyanide [HCN] production—an antiherbivore defense associated with decreased tolerance to freezing) have shifted in response to climatic variation in space and time over a 60-year period in both the native and introduced ranges of Trifolium repens. HCN production is a polymorphic trait controlled by variation at two Mendelian loci (Ac and Li). Using phenotypic assays, we estimated within-population frequencies of HCN production and dominant alleles at both loci (i.e., Ac and Li) from 10,575 plants sampled from 131 populations on five continents, and then compared these frequencies to those from historical data collected in the 1950s. There were no clear relationships between changes in the frequency of HCN production, Ac, or Li and changes in temperature between contemporary and historical samples. We did detect evidence of continued evolution to temperature gradients in the introduced range, whereby the slope of contemporary clines for HCN and Ac in relation to winter temperature became steeper than historical clines and more similar to native clines. These results suggest that cyanogenesis clines show no clear changes through time in response to global warming, but introduced populations continue to adapt to their contemporary environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1511
Number of pages17
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Adaptation
  • Trifolium repens
  • climate change
  • cline
  • cyanogenesis
  • plant defense
  • white clover


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