Size isn’t everything: rates of genome size evolution, not C value, correlate with speciation in angiosperms

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Angiosperms represent one of the key examples of evolutionary success, and their diversity dwarfs other land plants; this success has been linked in part to genome size, and phenomena such as whole genome duplication events. However, while angiosperms exhibit a remarkable breadth of genome size, evidence linking overall genome size to diversity is equivocal, at best. Here we show that rates of speciation and genome size evolution are tightly correlated across land plants, and angiosperms show the highest rates for both, while very slow rates are seen in their comparatively speciespoor sister group, the gymnosperms. No evidence is found linking overall genome size and rates of speciation. Within angiosperms, both the monocots and eudicots show the highest rates of speciation and genome size evolution, and these data suggest a potential explanation for the megadiversity of angiosperms. It is difficult to associate high rates of diversification with different types of polyploidy, but it is likely that high rates of evolution correlate with a smaller genome size after genome duplications. The diversity of angiosperms may, in part, be due to an ability to increase evolvability by benefiting from whole genome duplications, transposable elements, and general genome plasticity
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1820
Early online date3 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2015


  • angiosperms
  • genome size
  • evolvability
  • Polyploidy
  • genome duplication


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    Sadaf R Alam (Manager), Steven A Chapman (Manager), Polly E Eccleston (Other), Simon H Atack (Other) & D A G Williams (Manager)

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