The demography and population genomics of evolutionary transitions to self-fertilization in plants

Spencer C.H. Barrett, Arunkumar Ramesh, Stephen I. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of self-fertilization from outcrossing has occurred on numerous occasions in flowering plants. This shift in mating system profoundly influences the morphology, ecology, genetics and evolution of selfing lineages. As a result, there has been sustained interest in understanding the mechanisms driving the evolution of selfing and its environmental context. Recently, patterns of molecular variation have been used to make inferences about the selective mechanisms associated with mating system transitions. However, these inferences can be complicated by the action of linked selection following the transition. Here, using multilocus simulations and comparative molecular data from related selfers and outcrossers, we demonstrate that there is little evidence for strong bottlenecks associated with initial transitions to selfing, and our simulation results cast doubt on whether it is possible to infer the role of bottlenecks associated with reproductive assurance in the evolution of selfing. They indicate that the effects of background selection on the loss of diversity and efficacy of selection occur rapidly following the shift to high selfing. Future comparative studies that integrate explicit ecological and genomic details are necessary for quantifying the independent and joint effects of selection and demography on transitions to selfing and the loss of genetic diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1648
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2014


  • demography
  • genetic bottlenecks
  • background selection
  • plant mating
  • reproductive assurance
  • self-fertilization


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