Drift drives the evolution of chromosome number I: The impact of trait transitions on genome evolution in Coleoptera. Academic Article uri icon


  • Chromosomal mutations such as fusions and fissions are often thought to be deleterious, especially in heterozygotes (underdominant), and consequently are unlikely to become fixed. Yet, many models of chromosomal speciation ascribe an important role to chromosomal mutations. When the effective population size (Ne) is small, the efficacy of selection is weakened, and the likelihood of fixing underdominant mutations by genetic drift is greater. Thus, it is possible that ecological and phenotypic transitions that modulate Ne facilitate the fixation of chromosome changes, increasing the rate of karyotype evolution. We synthesize all available chromosome number data in Coleoptera and estimate the impact of traits expected to change Ne on the rate of karyotype evolution in the family Carabidae and 12 disparate clades from across Coleoptera. Our analysis indicates that in Carabidae, wingless clades have faster rates of chromosome number increase. Additionally, our analysis indicates clades exhibiting multiple traits expected to reduce Ne, including strict inbreeding, oligophagy, winglessness, and island endemism, have high rates of karyotype evolution. Our results suggest that chromosome number changes are likely fixed by genetic drift despite an initial fitness cost and that chromosomal speciation models may be important to consider in clades with very small Ne.

published proceedings

  • J Hered

author list (cited authors)

  • Blackmon, H., Jonika, M. M., Alfieri, J. M., & Demuth, J. P.

complete list of authors

  • Blackmon, Heath||Jonika, Michelle M||Alfieri, James M||Demuth, Jeffery P

publication date

  • January 2024