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Science. 2011 Sep 2;333(6047):1257. doi: 10.1126/science.1207205. Epub 2011 Aug 18.

Recently formed polyploid plants diversify at lower rates.

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Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.


Polyploidy, the doubling of genomic content, is a widespread feature, especially among plants, yet its macroevolutionary impacts are contentious. Traditionally, polyploidy has been considered an evolutionary dead end, whereas recent genomic studies suggest that polyploidy has been a key driver of macroevolutionary success. We examined the consequences of polyploidy on the time scale of genera across a diverse set of vascular plants, encompassing hundreds of inferred polyploidization events. Likelihood-based analyses indicate that polyploids generally exhibit lower speciation rates and higher extinction rates than diploids, providing the first quantitative corroboration of the dead-end hypothesis. The increased speciation rates of diploids can, in part, be ascribed to their capacity to speciate via polyploidy. Only particularly fit lineages of polyploids may persist to enjoy longer-term evolutionary success.

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