Dating the origins of polyploidy events


Author for correspondence:
Jeff J. Doyle
Tel: +1 607 255 7972


  • Polyploidy is a widespread speciation mechanism, particularly in plants. Estimating the time of origin of polyploid species is important for understanding issues such as gene loss and changes in regulation and expression among homoeologous copies that coexist in a single genome owing to polyploidy.
  • Polyploid species can originate in various ways; the effects of mode of origin, genetic system, and sampling on estimates of the age of polyploid origin using distances between alleles of polyploids and their diploid progenitors, or between homoeologous loci in a polyploid genome, are explored.
  • Even in the simplest cases, simulations confirm that different loci are expected to give very different estimates of the date of origin. The time of polyploid origin is at least as old as the time estimated from comparison of an allele sampled from the polyploid with the most closely related allele in the diploid progenitor. The polyploidy literature often does not make clear the longstanding observation that the divergence of homoeologous copies in an allopolyploid tracks the divergence of diploid species, not the origin of the polyploid.
  • Estimating the date of origin of a polyploid is difficult, and in some circumstances impossible. Skepticism about dates of polyploid origins is clearly warranted.