Pereira, F. K., Mortier, F., Milosavljević, S., Van de Peer, Y., & Bonte, D. (2023). Neutral processes underlying the macro eco-evolutionary dynamics of mixed-ploidy systems. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 290(1995). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.2456
Polyploidy, i.e. the occurrence of multiple sets of chromosomes, is regarded as an important phenomenon in plant ecology and evolution, with all flowering plants likely having a polyploid ancestry. Owing to genome shock, minority cytotype exclusion and reduced fertility, polyploids emerging in diploid populations are expected to face significant challenges to successful establishment. Their establishment and persistence are often explained by possible fitness or niche differences that would relieve the competitive pressure with diploid progenitors. Experimental evidence for such advantages is, however, not unambiguous, and considerable niche overlap exists among most polyploid species and their diploid counterparts. Here, we develop a neutral spatially explicit eco-evolutionary model to understand whether neutral processes can explain the eco-evolutionary patterns of polyploids. We present a general mechanism for polyploid establishment by showing that sexually reproducing organisms assemble in space in an iterative manner, reducing frequency-dependent mating disadvantages and overcoming potential reduced fertility issues. Moreover, we construct a mechanistic theoretical framework that allows us to understand the long-term evolution of mixed-ploidy populations and show that our model is remarkably consistent with recent phylogenomic estimates of species extinctions in the Brassicaceae family.