The correlation of phylogenetics, elevation and ploidy on the incidence of apomixis in {Asteraceae} in the {European} {Alps}

Asexual reproduction has often been regarded as an evolutionary dead end, but asexual lineages (most notably those that are apomictic) are present in several angiosperm families and often comprise a large number of taxa, both widespread and endemic. Investigating correlations between genetic, environmental and taxonomic factors and the incidence of apomixis has represented a challenge for many years, with previous analyses frequently omitting one or more of these variables. Here, flow cytometric seed screening, cytological data and ecological variables have been integrated in a phylogenetic framework to create a comprehensive dataset for 229 of Asteraceae from the European Alps. Data were analysed using phylogenetically informed generalized linear mixed models (pMCMCglmm) where elevation, ploidy and phenology were assessed for their potential correlation with asexual reproduction and apomixis type. Although apomixis is not dominant among the species studied, our results confirm that an odd ploidy (e.g. 3x) and, to a lesser extent, an even polyploid level (i.e. 4x) significantly increase its probability, most probably due to chromosome misalignments during meiosis. The distribution of apomictic species does not correlate with elevation, and there is a weak correlation between early flowering initiation and aposporous apomixis. Although current and future changes in climate may severely impact the survival of the flora of the European Alps, asexual reproduction and polyploidization may prove to be, at least temporarily, lifelines for the survival of a species under the novel climatic conditions. Therefore, uncovering how apomicts and polyploids evolve and persist will be essential for understanding the ecology of the European Alps and hence informing future conservation strategies.


The correlation of phylogenetics, elevation and ploidy on the incidence of apomixis in {Asteraceae} in the {European} {Alps}
Publication Type
Journal Article
Year of Publication
Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society
Date Published
CNRS, Lautaret
Submitted on 21 October 2021