Chromosome number evolves at equal rates in holocentric and monocentric clades.
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Despite the fundamental role of centromeres two different types are observed across plants and animals. Monocentric chromosomes possess a single region that function as the centromere while in holocentric chromosomes centromere activity is spread across the entire chromosome. Proper segregation may fail in species with monocentric chromosomes after a fusion or fission, which may lead to chromosomes with no centromere or multiple centromeres. In contrast, species with holocentric chromosomes should still be able to safely segregate chromosomes after fusion or fission. This along with the observation of high chromosome number in some holocentric clades has led to the hypothesis that holocentricity leads to higher rates of chromosome number evolution. To test for differences in rates of chromosome number evolution between these systems, we analyzed data from 4,393 species of insects in a phylogenetic framework. We found that insect orders exhibit striking differences in rates of fissions, fusions, and polyploidy. However, across all insects we found no evidence that holocentric clades have higher rates of fissions, fusions, or polyploidy than monocentric clades. Our results suggest that holocentricity alone does not lead to higher rates of chromosome number changes. Instead, we suggest that other co-evolving traits must explain striking differences between clades.