A role for nonadaptive processes in plant genome size evolution?Evolution 2010; 64(7):2097-109E
Genome sizes vary widely among species, but comprehensive explanations for the emergence of this variation have not been validated. Lynch and Conery (2003) hypothesized that genome expansion is maladaptive, and that lineages with small effective population size (N(e)) evolve larger genomes than those with large N(e) as a consequence of the lowered efficacy of natural selection in small populations. In addition, mating systems likely affect genome size evolution via effects on both N(e) and the spread of transposable elements (TEs). We present a comparative analysis of the effects of N(e) and mating system on genome size evolution in seed plants. The dataset includes 205 species with monoploid genome size estimates (corrected for recent polyploidy) ranging from 2Cx = 0.3 to 65.9 pg. The raw data exhibited a strong positive relationship between outcrossing and genome size, a negative relationship between N(e) and genome size, but no detectable N(e)x outcrossing interaction. In contrast, phylogenetically independent contrast analyses found only a weak relationship between outcrossing and genome size and no relationship between N(e) and genome size. Thus, seed plants do not support the Lynch and Conery mechanism of genome size evolution. Further work is needed to disentangle contrasting effects of mating systems on the efficacy of selection and TE transmission.