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Keywords:

  • adaptation;
  • Cariceae;
  • chromosome number;
  • holocentric chromosomes;
  • Ornstein–Uhlenbeck model;
  • recombination rate

Summary

  • Changes in chromosome number as a result of fission and fusion in holocentrics have direct and immediate effects on the recombination rate. We investigate the support for the classic hypothesis that environmental stability selects for increased recombination rates.
  • We employed a phylogenetic and cytogenetic data set from one of the most diverse angiosperm genera in the world, which has the largest nonpolyploid chromosome radiation (Carex, Cyperaceae; 2= 12–124; 2100 spp.). We evaluated alternative Ornstein–Uhlenbeck models of chromosome number adaptation to the environment in an information-theoretic framework.
  • We found moderate support for a positive influence of lateral inflorescence unit size on chromosome number, which may be selected in a stable environment in which resources for reproductive investment are larger. We found weak support for a positive influence on chromosome number of water-saturated soils and among-month temperature constancy, which would be expected to be negatively select for pioneering species. Chromosome number showed a strong phylogenetic signal.
  • We argue that our finding of small but significant effects of life history and ecology is compatible with our original hypothesis regarding selection of optima in recombination rates: low recombination rate is optimal when inmediate fitness is required. By contrast, high recombination rate is optimal when stable environments allow for evolutionary innovation.