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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Feb 28;361(1466):335-43.

Sexual conflict and the alternation of haploid and diploid generations.

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  • 1Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. dhaig@oeb.harvard.edu


Land plants possess a multicellular diploid stage (sporophyte) that begins development while attached to a multicellular haploid progenitor (gametophyte). Although the closest algal relatives of land plants lack a multicellular sporophyte, they do produce a zygote that grows while attached to the maternal gametophyte. The diploid offspring shares one haploid set of genes with the haploid mother that supplies it with resources and a paternal haploid complement that is not shared with the mother. Sexual conflict can arise within the diploid offspring because the offspring's maternal genome will be transmitted in its entirety to all other sexual and asexual offspring that the mother may produce, but the offspring's paternally derived genes may be absent from these other offspring. Thus, the selective forces favouring the evolution of genomic imprinting may have been present from the origin of modern land plants. In bryophytes, where gametophytes are long-lived and capable of multiple bouts of asexual and sexual reproduction, we predict strong sexual conflict over allocation to sporophytes. Female gametophytes of pteridophytes produce a single sporophyte and often lack means of asexual reproduction. Therefore, sexual conflict is predicted to be attenuated. Finally, we explore similarities among models of mate choice, offspring choice and segregation distortion.

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