Silvija MILOSAVLJEVIC — PhD student
Joined the group in 2021

After learning about the possible ecological consequences of WGD and allopolyploidy on biotic interactions and stress resistance in the study system of Arabidopsis kamchatica during previous studies, I got interested in polyploid plants and their importance for the evolution and ecology. Arabidopsis kamchatica is an allotetraploid species derived from Arabidopsis lyrata and Arabidopsis halleri (heavy metal accumulator species). Studies have revealed that the allotetraploid plant inherited its hyperaccumulating ability as an advantageous trait as it is related to elemental defense against herbivores. Interactions with herbivores have important implications for the ecology and evolution of this species, and I would like to further study this on a more theoretical level, using ecological modeling of populations and individual-based models. Besides this group, I will also be a part of Terrestrial Ecology Unit, co-supervised by Prof. Dries Bonte. My specific topic during PhD will be the eco-evo dynamics of polyploid establishment and the coexistence with diploid progenitors, despite the challenges such as minority cytotype exclusion, fertility decrease, cell division issues and general competition for resources in already filled niches. I am particularly interested in understanding the dynamics of populations in heterogeneous environments where changes in metabolic and reproductive traits due to the WGD may play a crucial role.


  1. Mortier, F., Bafort, Q., Milosavljević, S., Pereira, F. K., Prost, L., Van de Peer, Y., & Bonte, D. (2024). Understanding polyploid establishment : temporary persistence or stable coexistence? OIKOS, 2024(5).
    Polyploidy, resulting from whole-genome duplication (WGD), is ubiquitous in nature and reportedly associated with extreme environments and biological invasions. However, WGD usually comes with great costs, raising questions about the establishment chance of newly formed polyploids. The surprisingly high number of polyploid and mixed-ploidy species observed in nature may be a consequence of their continuous emergence or may reflect stable polyploid persistence and even coexistence with the ancestral ploidy under certain circumstances. However, empirical studies on contemporary polyploid establishment often neglect the cost-benefit balances of polyploid characteristics, tradeoffs between phenotypic characteristics, intercytotype interactions, recurrent polyploid formation, and stochastic processes. Here, we advocate for considering population-level success, combining the aforementioned factors that affect polyploid establishment and long-term coexistence with their ancestors. We approach the paradox of polyploid establishment despite high costs from a modern coexistence theory perspective and give an overview of the diversity of mechanisms and their timing that may potentially enable stable rather than transient persistence.
  2. 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).
    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.