There has been an enormous increase in the amount of data on DNA sequence polymorphism available for many organisms in the last decade. New sequencing technologies provide great potential for investigating natural selection in plants using population genomic approaches. However, plant populations frequently show significant departures from the assumptions of standard models used to detect selection and many forms of directional selection do not fit with classical population genetics theory. Here, we explore the extent to which plant populations show departures from standard model assumptions, and the implications this has for detecting selection on molecular variation. A growing number of multilocus studies of nucleotide variation suggest that changes in population size, particularly bottlenecks, and strong subdivision may be common in plants. This demographic variation presents important challenges for models used to infer selection. In addition, selection from standing genetic variation and multiple independent adaptive substitutions can further complicate efforts to understand the nature of selection. We discuss emerging patterns from plant studies and propose that, rather than treating population history as a nuisance variable when testing for selection, the interaction between demography and selection is of fundamental importance for evolutionary studies of plant populations using molecular data.
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