• abscission;
  • candidate gene;
  • Oryza sativa;
  • red rice;
  • seed dispersal


Cultivated rice fields worldwide are plagued with weedy rice, a conspecific weed of cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.). The persistence of weedy rice has been attributed, in part, to its ability to shatter (disperse) seed prior to crop harvesting. In the United States, separately evolved weedy rice groups have been shown to share genomic identity with exotic domesticated cultivars. Here, we investigate the shattering phenotype in a collection of U.S. weedy rice accessions, as well as wild and cultivated relatives. We find that all U.S. weedy rice groups shatter seeds easily, despite multiple origins, and in contrast to a decrease in shattering ability seen in cultivated groups. We assessed allelic identity and diversity at the major shattering locus, sh4, in weedy rice; we find that all cultivated and weedy rice, regardless of population, share similar haplotypes at sh4, and all contain a single derived mutation associated with decreased seed shattering. Our data constitute the strongest evidence to date of an evolution of weeds from domesticated backgrounds. The combination of a shared cultivar sh4 allele and a highly shattering phenotype, suggests that U.S. weedy rice have re-acquired the shattering trait after divergence from their progenitors through alternative genetic mechanisms.