Constraining the timing of whole genome duplication in plant evolutionary history

James W. Clark*, Philip C.J. Donoghue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
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Whole genome duplication (WGD) has occurred in many lineages within the tree of life and is invariably invoked as causal to evolutionary innovation, increased diversity, and extinction resistance. Testing such hypotheses is problematic, not least since the timing of WGD events has proven hard to constrain. Here we show that WGD events can be dated through molecular clock analysis of concatenated gene families, calibrated using fossil evidence for the ages of species divergences that bracket WGD events. We apply this approach to dating the two major genome duplication events shared by all seed plants (ζ) and flowering plants (ε), estimating the seed plant WGD event at 399–381 Ma, and the angiosperm WGD event at 319–297 Ma. These events thus took place early in the stem of both lineages, precluding hypotheses of WGD conferring extinction resistance, driving dramatic increases in innovation and diversity, but corroborating and qualifying the more permissive hypothesis of a ‘lag-time’ in realizing the effects of WGD in plant evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170912
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1858
Early online date5 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2017


  • Genome duplication
  • Molecular clock
  • Plant evolution
  • Polyploidy


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  • HPC (High Performance Computing) Facility

    Polly E Eccleston (Other), Simon H Atack (Other) & D A G Williams (Manager)

    Facility/equipment: Facility

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