Recent studies show that molecular convergence plays an unexpectedly common role in the evolution of convergent phenotypes. We exploited this phenomenon to find candidate loci underlying resistance to the emerald ash borer (EAB, Agrilus planipennis), the United States’ most costly invasive forest insect to date, within the pan-genome of ash trees (the genus Fraxinus). We show that EAB-resistant taxa occur within three independent phylogenetic lineages. In genomes from these resistant lineages, we detect 53 genes with evidence of convergent amino acid evolution. Gene-tree reconstruction indicates that, for 48 of these candidates, the convergent amino acids are more likely to have arisen via independent evolution than by another process such as hybridization or incomplete lineage sorting. Seven of the candidate genes have putative roles connected to the phenylpropanoid biosynthesis pathway and 17 relate to herbivore recognition, defence signalling or programmed cell death. Evidence for loss-of-function mutations among these candidates is more frequent in susceptible species than in resistant ones. Our results on evolutionary relationships, variability in resistance, and candidate genes for defence response within the ash genus could inform breeding for EAB resistance, facilitating ecological restoration in areas invaded by this beetle.
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