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Keywords:

  • Angiosperms;
  • breeding systems;
  • comparative methods;
  • polyploidy;
  • self-incompatibility;
  • statistical phylogenetics

Breakdown of self-incompatibility occurs repeatedly in flowering plants with important evolutionary consequences. In plant families in which self-incompatibility is mediated by S-RNases, previous evidence suggests that polyploidy may often directly cause self-compatibility through the formation of diploid pollen grains. We use three approaches to examine relationships between self-incompatibility and ploidy. First, we test whether evolution of self-compatibility and polyploidy is correlated in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), and find the expected close association between polyploidy and self-compatibility. Second, we compare the rate of breakdown of self-incompatibility in the absence of polyploidy against the rate of breakdown that arises as a byproduct of polyploidization, and we find the former to be greater. Third, we apply a novel extension to these methods to show that the relative magnitudes of the macroevolutionary pathways leading to self-compatible polyploids are time dependent. Over small time intervals, the direct pathway from self-incompatible diploids is dominant, whereas the pathway through self-compatible diploids prevails over longer time scales. This pathway analysis is broadly applicable to models of character evolution in which sequential combinations of rates are compared. Finally, given the strong evidence for both irreversibility of the loss of self-incompatibility in the family and the significant association between self-compatibility and polyploidy, we argue that ancient polyploidy is highly unlikely to have occurred within the Solanaceae, contrary to previous claims based on genomic analyses.