Exploring the Relationships between Mutation Rates, Life History, Genome Size, Environment, and Species Richness in Flowering Plants

Am Nat. 2015 Apr;185(4):507-24. doi: 10.1086/680052. Epub 2015 Feb 10.


A new view is emerging of the interplay between mutation at the genomic level, substitution at the population level, and diversification at the lineage level. Many studies have suggested that rate of molecular evolution is linked to rate of diversification, but few have evaluated competing hypotheses. By analyzing sequences from 130 families of angiosperms, we show that variation in the synonymous substitution rate is correlated among genes from the mitochondrial, chloroplast, and nuclear genomes and linked to differences in traits among families (average height and genome size). Within each genome, synonymous rates are correlated to nonsynonymous substitution rates, suggesting that increasing the mutation rate results in a faster rate of genome evolution. Substitution rates are correlated with species richness in protein-coding sequences from the chloroplast and nuclear genomes. These data suggest that species traits contribute to lineage-specific differences in the mutation rate that drive both synonymous and nonsynonymous rates of change across all three genomes, which in turn contribute to greater rates of divergence between populations, generating higher rates of diversification. These observations link mutation in individuals to population-level processes and to patterns of lineage divergence.

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Genome Size
  • Genome, Chloroplast
  • Genome, Mitochondrial
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Magnoliopsida / classification
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics*
  • Mutation Rate*
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny