Tangled up in two: A burst of genome duplications at the end of the Cretaceous and the consequences for plant evolution
Genome sequencing has demonstrated that besides frequent small-scale duplications, large-scale duplication events such as whole genome duplications (WGDs) are found on many branches of the evolutionary tree of life. Especially in the plant lineage there is evidence for recurrent WGDs, and the ancestor of all angiosperms was in fact most likely a polyploid species. The number of WGDs found in sequenced plant genomes allows us to investigate questions about the roles of WGDs that were hitherto impossible to address. An intriguing observation is that many plant WGDs seem associated with periods of increased environmental stress and/or fluctuations, a trend that is evident for both present-day polyploids and paleopolyploids formed around the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction 66 million years ago. Here, we revisit the WGDs in plants that mark the K-Pg boundary, and discuss some specific examples of biological innovations and/or diversifications that may be linked to these WGDs. We review evidence for the processes that could have contributed to increased polyploid establishment at the K-Pg boundary, and discuss the implications on subsequent plant evolution in the Cenozoic.
Vanneste, K., Maere, S., Van de Peer, Y. (2014) Tangled up in two: A burst of genome duplications at the end of the Cretaceous and the consequences for plant evolution. Philosophical Transactions B 369(1648):20130353.
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