Angiosperms represent one of the key examples of evolutionary success, and their diversity dwarfs other land plants; this success has been linked, in part, to genome size and phenomena such as whole genome duplication events. However, while angiosperms exhibit a remarkable breadth of genome size, evidence linking overall genome size to diversity is equivocal, at best. Here, we show that the rates of speciation and genome size evolution are tightly correlated across land plants, and angiosperms show the highest rates for both, whereas very slow rates are seen in their comparatively species-poor sister group, the gymnosperms. No evidence is found linking overall genome size and rates of speciation. Within angiosperms, both the monocots and eudicots show the highest rates of speciation and genome size evolution, and these data suggest a potential explanation for the megadiversity of angiosperms. It is difficult to associate high rates of diversification with different types of polyploidy, but it is likely that high rates of evolution correlate with a smaller genome size after genome duplications. The diversity of angiosperms may, in part, be due to an ability to increase evolvability by benefiting from whole genome duplications, transposable elements and general genome plasticity.
Keywords: angiosperms; evolvability; genome duplication; genome size; polyploidy.
© 2015 The Authors.