Polyploidy and its effect on evolutionary success: old questions revisited with new tools
Polyploidy, the condition of possessing more than two complete genomes in a cell, has intrigued biologists for almost a century. Polyploidy is found in many plants and some animal species and today we know that polyploidy has had a role in the evolution of all angiosperms. Despite its widespread occurrence, the direct effect of polyploidy on evolutionary success of a species is still largely unknown. Over the years many attractive hypotheses have been proposed in an attempt to assign functionality to the increased content of a duplicated genome. Among these hypotheses are the proposal that genome doubling confers distinct advantages to a polyploid and that these advantages allow polyploids to thrive in environments that pose challenges to the polyploid’s diploid progenitors. This article revisits these long-standing questions and explores how the integration of recent genomic developments with ecological, physiological and evolutionary perspectives has contributed to addressing unresolved problems about the role of polyploidy. Although unsatisfactory, the current conclusion has to be that despite significant progress, there still isn’t enough information to unequivocally answer many unresolved questions about cause and effect of polyploidy on evolutionary success of a species. There is, however, reason to believe that the increasingly integrative approaches discussed here should allow us in the future to make more direct connections between the effects of polyploidy on the genome and the responses this condition elicits from the organism living in its natural environment.
“Polyploidy and its effect on evolutionary success: old questions revisited with new tools.” Heredity 110, 99–104, 2013.