The long-term establishment of ancient organisms that have undergone whole genome duplications has been exceedingly rare. On the other hand, tens of thousands of now-living species are polyploid and contain multiple copies of their genome. The paucity of ancient genome duplications and the existence of so many species that are currently polyploid provide an interesting and fascinating enigma. A question that remains is whether these older genome duplications have survived by coincidence or because they did occur at very specific times, for instance during major ecological upheavals and periods of extinction. It has indeed been proposed that chromosome doubling conveys greater stress tolerance by fostering slower development, delayed reproduction and longer life span. Furthermore, polyploids have also been considered to have greater ability to colonize new or disturbed habitats. If polyploidy allowed many plant lineages to survive and adapt during global changes, as suggested, we might wonder whether polyploidy will confer a similar advantage in the current period of global warming and general ecological pressure caused by the human race. Given predictions that species extinction is now occurring at as high rates as during previous mass extinctions, will the presumed extra adaptability of polyploid plants mean they will become the dominant species? In the current proposal, we hope to address these questions at different levels through 1) the analysis of whole plant genome sequence data and 2) the in silico modelling of artificial gene regulatory networks to mimic the genomic consequences of genome doubling and how this may affect network structure and dosage balance. Furthermore, we aim at using simulated robotic models running on artificial gene regulatory networks in complex environments to evaluate how both natural and artificial organism populations can potentially benefit from gene and genome duplications for adaptation, survival, and evolution in general.
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