The evolution of Spartina anglica C. E. Hubbard (Gramineae): genetic variation and status of the parental species in Britain

A. F. Raybould, A. J. Gray, M. J. Lawrence, D. F. Marshall

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43 Citations (Scopus)


The perennial salt marsh grass Spartina anglica is one of the classic examples of allopolyploid speciation. It originated on the south coast of England at the end of the nineteenth century following chromosome doubling in S. × townsmdii, a hybrid between the native British S. marilima and a species introduced from the United States, S. alterniflora. The nature of the origin of S. anglica is beyond doubt; however, it is not known whether it had a single or multiple origin. In order to address this problem we undertook a survey of the genetic variation in the parental species of S. anglica using isozyme electrophoresis. The results show that S. alterniflora has no detectable variation and that S. maritima has extremely low levels of variation. These results, unfortunately, prevent the question of a single or multiple origin from being answered. Possible reasons for the low levels of variation and its influence on the future of the species are discussed. Another problem concerning the parental species is the rapid decline of S. maritima in Britain. It is often assumed that the major factor in this regression is the invasion of its habitats by S. anglica. We have examined the status of S. marilima throughout its range in Britain and have found that S. anglica rarely co-occurs with S. maritima. We propose that the decline of S. maritima is largely due to the physical erosion of its habitats and that this erosion may produce suitable habitats for colonization by S. anglica.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-380
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPrint publication - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • S. alterniflora
  • S. maritima
  • Spartina anglica
  • genetic variation
  • isozymes
  • succession


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