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August 23rd, 2010:

Genome size changes and hybrid vigor?

Festuca pallens. Photo Petr Filippov, wikimedia commons. Click to see photo in original context

A group of researchers at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic study how different members of the same grass species (Festuca pallens) have different total amounts of DNA per cell. have a new paper out in New Phytologist  they found that plants with the most unusual genome sizes (really big or really small) are less likely to survive to adulthood than plants that have roughly average amounts of DNA per cell. In other words, plants with abnormally high or low genome sizes have lower fitness than their averagely genome endowed siblings.

One point the authors don’t get into, is whether what they’re really seeing is evidence of heterosis (hybrid vigor). Which is not to say they haven’t thought of it. I can’t think of any way to address the question in a non-model system like Festuca, so any mention of it would have been the sort of pure speculation some peer reviewers don’t care for. But I, writing a totally un-peer reviewed blog, am free to speculate to my heart’s content: (more…)