A central question in evolutionary biology is why some species have more genetic diversity than others and a no less important question is why selection efficacy varies among species. Although these questions have started to be tackled in animals, they have not been addressed to the same extent in plants. Here, we estimated nucleotide diversity at synonymous, πS, and nonsynonymous sites, πN, and a measure of the efficacy of selection, the ratio πN/πS, in 34 animal and 28 plant species using full genome data. We then evaluated the relationship of nucleotide diversity and selection efficacy with effective population size, the distribution of fitness effect and life history traits. In animals, our data confirm that longevity and propagule size are the variables that best explain the variation in πS among species. In plants longevity also plays a major role as well as mating system. As predicted by the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution, the log of πN/πS decreased linearly with the log of πS but the slope was weaker in plants than in animals. This appears to be due to a higher mutation rate in long lived plants, and the difference disappears when πS is rescaled by the mutation rate. Differences in the distribution of fitness effect of new mutations also contributed to variation in πN/πS among species.
Keywords: distribution of fitness effects; effective population size; life history traits; nearly neutral theory; purifying selection.
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