Symposium: “The evolutionary consequences of selection at the haploid gametic stage”

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Simone Immler and Sarah P. Otto (Aug 2018)

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As an immediate consequence of sexual reproduction, biphasic life cycles with alternating diploid and haploid phases are a common characteristic of sexually reproducing eukaryotes. Much of our focus in evolutionary biology has been directed towards dynamics in diploid or haploid populations, but we rarely consider selection occurring during both phases when studying evolutionary processes. One of the reasons for this apparent omission is the fact that many flowering plants and metazoans are predominantly diploid with a very short haploid gametic phase. While this gametic phase may be short, it can play a crucial role in fundamental processes including the rate of adaptation, the load of mutation, and the evolution of features such as recombination. In addition, if selection acts in different or even opposite directions between the two phases, a genetic conflict will occur, impacting the maintenance of genetic variation. Here we provide an overview of theoretical and empirical studies investigating the importance of selection at the haploid gametic phase in predominantly diploid organisms and discuss future directions to improve our understanding of the underlying dynamics and the general implications of haploid selection.