Hybridization, polyploidy, and evolutionary transitions between monoecy and dioecy in Bryonia (Cucurbitaceae)

Stefanie M. Volz, Susanne S. Renner

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15 Scopus citations


Correns's 1903 (Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft 21: 133-147) crosses between a monoecious and a dioecious species of Bryonia revealed the simple Mendelian inheritance of dioecy and provided the first instance of an XY sex determination system in any organism. Bryonia ranges from the Canary Islands to Central Asia and comprises seven dioecious and three monoecious species; its closest relative, Ecballium elaterium, has dioecious and monoecious populations. We used chloroplast (cp) and nuclear (nr) gene phylogenies to infer sexual system evolution in Bryonia. We also tested for associations between sexual system and ploidy level, based on published and original chromosome counts. Conflicts between cp and nr topologies imply that the dioecious hexaploid B. cretica arose from hybridization(s), probably involving the dioecious diploids B. dioica, B. syriaca, and/or B. multiflora. A tetraploid dioecious endemic on Corsica and Sardinia probably originated from B. dioica via autopolyploidy. While the cp phylogeny resolves few species relationships, the nr tree implies at least two evolutionary changes in sexual system. There is no correlation between sexual system and ploidy level. Molecular clocks suggest that the deepest divergence, between a species on the Canary Islands and the ancestor of all remaining species, occurred ca. 10 million years ago.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1297-1306
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Bryonia
  • Chloroplast DNA haplotypes
  • Chromosome counts
  • Cucurbitaceae
  • Dioecy
  • Hybridization
  • Monoecy
  • Nuclear LEAFY intron
  • Polyploidy


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