The model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana is successful at colonizing land that has recently undergone human-mediated disturbance. To investigate the prehistoric spread of A. thaliana, we applied approximate Bayesian computation and explicit spatial modeling to 76 European accessions sequenced at 876 nuclear loci. We find evidence that a major migration wave occurred from east to west, affecting most of the sampled individuals. The longitudinal gradient appears to result from the plant having spread in Europe from the east approximately 10,000 years ago, with a rate of westward spread of approximately 0.9 km/year. This wave-of-advance model is consistent with a natural colonization from an eastern glacial refugium that overwhelmed ancient western lineages. However, the speed and time frame of the model also suggest that the migration of A. thaliana into Europe may have accompanied the spread of agriculture during the Neolithic transition.
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