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Keywords:

  • biogeography;
  • genome doubling;
  • genomic plasticity;
  • global change;
  • polysomic inheritance

Summary

Autopolyploidy is more common in plants than traditionally assumed, but has received little attention compared with allopolyploidy. Hence, the advantages and disadvantages of genome doubling per se compared with genome doubling coupled with hybridizations in allopolyploids remain unclear. Autopolyploids are characterized by genomic redundancy and polysomic inheritance, increasing effective population size. To shed light on the evolutionary consequences of autopolyploidy, we review a broad range of studies focusing on both synthetic and natural autopolyploids encompassing levels of biological organization from genes to evolutionary lineages. The limited evidence currently available suggests that autopolyploids neither experience strong genome restructuring nor wide reorganization of gene expression during the first generations following genome doubling, but that these processes may become more important in the longer term. Biogeographic and ecological surveys point to an association between the formation of autopolyploid lineages and environmental change. We thus hypothesize that polysomic inheritance may provide a short-term evolutionary advantage for autopolyploids compared to diploid relatives when environmental change enforces range shifts. In addition, autopolyploids should possess increased genome flexibility, allowing them to adapt and persist across heterogeneous landscapes in the long run.