In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Polyploid Speciation

  • Introduction
  • Single vs Multiple Origins
  • Polyploid Establishment
  • Polyploidy and Ecology
  • Physiological Impact of Polyploidy

Evolutionary Biology Polyploid Speciation
Doug Soltis, Clayton Visger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199941728-0084


Diploid organisms have two complete sets of chromosomes. Polyploidy, often referred to now as whole genome duplication or doubling (WGD), is defined as the presence of three or more complete chromosome sets in an organism. This definition has a long history, tracing to the early 1900s, when researchers first observed the formation of a higher chromosome number via the addition of extra whole chromosome sets present. Polyploidy typically results in instant speciation—the new polyploid may be immediately isolated reproductively from its parent or parents; this process greatly increases biodiversity and provides new genetic material for evolution. In this regard, studies of diverse species have shown that polyploid genomes are highly dynamic with diverse alterations in gene expression, gene content, physiology, and chromosome evolution.

General Overviews

Many reviews of polyploidy are available, both classical and recent. Contributions fundamental to our current understanding of polyploidy include Clausen, et al. 1945; Stebbins 1971; and Grant 1981. More recent review articles on polyploidy are provided in Doyle, et al. 2008 and Wendel 2015. Additionally, a number of books and book chapters provide a synthesis on polyploid research—these include Stebbins 1971, Lewis 1980, Polyploid and Hybrid Genomics, and Polyploidy and Genome Evolution.

  • Chen, Z. Jeffery, and James A. Birchler, eds. 2013. Polyploid and hybrid genomics. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell.

    One of the most recent syntheses of current research on polyploidy.

  • Clausen, Jens, David D. Keck, and William M. Hiesey. 1945. Experimental studies on the nature of species. Vol. 2, Plant evolution through amphiploidy and autopolyploidy, with examples from the Madiinae. Washington, DC: Carnegie Institute of Washington.

    A classic summary of polyploidy and studies of examples from nature.

  • Doyle, Jeffrey J., Lex E. Flagel, Andrew H. Paterson, et al. 2008. Evolutionary genetics of genome merger and doubling in plants. Annual Review of Genetics 42:443–461.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.genet.42.110807.091524

    An important summary of the genetic consequences of polyploidy in plants.

  • Grant, Vern. 1981. Plant speciation. 2d ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    Chapters of this book focus on hybridization, polyploidy, and frequency in nature.

  • Lewis, Walter H., ed. 1980. Polyploidy: Biological relevance. Proceedings of the International Conference on Polyploidy: Biological Relevance, held at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 24–27 May 1979. New York: Plenum.

    Chapters of this book represent contributions from a three-day conference on polyploidy representing a superb summary of what was known about polyploidy at that time. This influential work shaped the thinking of an entire generation of researchers interested in polyploidy.

  • Soltis, Pamela S., and Douglas E. Soltis, eds. 2012. Polyploidy and genome evolution. New York and Berlin: Springer.

    Chapters of this book provide a recent review of polyploidy in diverse lineages of organisms as well as genetic consequences of polyploidy.

  • Stebbins, G. Ledyard. 1971. Chromosomal evolution in higher plants. London: Edward Arnold.

    One of the most cited sources for polyploidy. Chapters of this book focus on hybridization, polyploidy, and attributes of polyploids.

  • Wendel, Jonathan F. 2015. The wondrous cycles of polyploidy in plants. American Journal of Botany 102:1753–1756.

    DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1500320

    A wonderful perspective on the interplay between polyploidy and subsequent diploidization, and how this repeated process has shaped Angiosperm genomes.

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