Of dups and dinos: evolution at the K/Pg boundary

Fifteen years into sequencing entire plant genomes, more than 30 paleopolyploidy events could be mapped on the tree of flowering plants (and many more when also transcriptome data sets are considered). While some genome duplications are very old and have occurred early in the evolution of dicots and monocots, or even before, others are more recent and seem to have occurred independently in many different plant lineages. Strikingly, a majority of these duplications date somewhere between 55 and 75 million years ago (mya), and thus likely correlate with the K/Pg boundary. If true, this would suggest that plants that had their genome duplicated at that time, had an increased chance to survive the most recent mass extinction event, at 66 mya, which wiped out a majority of plant and animal life, including all non-avian dinosaurs. Here, we review several processes, both neutral and adaptive, that might explain the establishment of polyploid plants, following the K/Pg mass extinction.

Lohaus, R., Van de Peer, Y. (2016) Of dups and dinos: evolution at the K/Pg boundary. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol. 30:62-69.

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