November 21, 2013
Polyploidy, the condition in which a nucleus contains more than two complete sets of genomes, is found in all flowering plants and in some animals. Its prevalence in nature suggests that polyploidy might play a prominent role as an evolutionary mechanism but opinions about this diverge among scientists. Our lab uses the model genus Arabidopsis to test the hypothesis that polyploidy leads to wide-spread genomic changes that go beyond the simple additive state of cells carrying extra genomes in their nucleus. We have found that the addition of chromosomes leads to highly variable nuclear chromosome contents and have found correlations between karyotypic variability and potentially adaptive phenotypes. We conclude from our data that polyploidy indeed has the potential to allow the rapid formation of new species.