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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Sep 27;363(1506):3009-21. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0064.

Review. The strength and genetic basis of reproductive isolating barriers in flowering plants.

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University Program in Genetics and Genomics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Speciation is characterized by the evolution of reproductive isolation between two groups of organisms. Understanding the process of speciation requires the quantification of barriers to reproductive isolation, dissection of the genetic mechanisms that contribute to those barriers and determination of the forces driving the evolution of those barriers. Through a comprehensive analysis involving 19 pairs of plant taxa, we assessed the strength and patterns of asymmetry of multiple prezygotic and postzygotic reproductive isolating barriers. We then reviewed contemporary knowledge of the genetic architecture of reproductive isolation and the relative role of chromosomal and genic factors in intrinsic postzygotic isolation. On average, we found that prezygotic isolation is approximately twice as strong as postzygotic isolation, and that postmating barriers are approximately three times more asymmetrical in their action than premating barriers. Barriers involve a variable number of loci, and chromosomal rearrangements may have a limited direct role in reproductive isolation in plants. Future research should aim to understand the relationship between particular genetic loci and the magnitude of their effect on reproductive isolation in nature, the geographical scale at which plant speciation occurs, and the role of different evolutionary forces in the speciation process.

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