Polyploidy is widely acknowledged as a major mechanism of adaptation and speciation in plants. The stages in polyploid evolution include frequent fertility bottlenecks and infrequent events such as gametic nonreduction and interspecific hybridization, yet little is known about how these and other factors influence overall rates of polyploid formation. Here we review the literature regarding polyploid origins, and quantify parameter values for each of the steps involved in the principal pathways. In contrast to the common claim that triploids are sterile, our results indicate that the triploid bridge pathway can contribute significantly to autopolyploid formation regardless of the mating system, and to allopolyploid formation in outcrossing taxa. We estimate that the total rate of autotetraploid formation is of the same order as the genic mutation rate (10−5), and that a high frequency of interspecific hybridization (0.2% for selfing taxa, 2.7% for outcrossing taxa) is required for the rate of tetraploid formation via allopolyploidy to equal that by autopolyploidy. We conclude that the rate of autopolyploid formation may often be higher than the rate of allopolyploid formation. Further progress toward understanding polyploid origins requires studies in natural populations that quantify: () the frequency of unreduced gametes, () the effectiveness of triploid bridge pathways, and () the rates of interspecific hybridization.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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