The role of hybrid seed inviability in angiosperm speciation

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Jenn Coughlan


Understanding which reproductive barriers contribute to speciation is essential to understanding the diversity of life on earth. Several contemporary examples of strong hybrid seed inviability (HSI) between recently diverged species suggest that HSI may play a fundamental role in plant speciation. Yet, a broader synthesis of HSI is needed to clarify its role in diversification. Here, I review the incidence and evolution of HSI. HSI is common and evolves rapidly, suggesting that it may play an important role early in speciation. The developmental mechanisms that underlie HSI involve similar developmental trajectories in endosperm, even between evolutionarily deeply diverged incidents of HSI. HSI is often accompanied by whole-scale gene misexpression in hybrid endosperm, including misexpression of imprinted genes which have a key role in endosperm development. I explore how an evolutionary perspective can clarify the repeated and rapid evolution of HSI. In particular, I evaluate the evidence for conflict between maternal and paternal interests in resource allocation to offspring (i.e. parental conflict). I highlight that parental conflict theory generates explicit predictions regarding the expected hybrid phenotypes and genes responsible for HSI. While much phenotypic evidence supports a role of parental conflict in the evolution of HSI, an understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of this barrier is essential to test parental conflict theory. Lastly, I explore what factors may influence the strength of parental conflict in natural plant populations as an explanation for why rates of HSI may differ between plant groups and the consequences of strong HSI in secondary contact.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Evolution, Life Sciences



Published: 2022-09-02 22:43

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