This book compiles a large series of monographs that demonstrate the extent, mechanisms and consequences of genome evolution in a wide range of recent or ancient polyploid organisms. Thirteen chapters (out of 18) are devoted to case studies; not only in plants, which have been most strikingly impacted by polyploidy (nine chapters), but also in yeasts (Chapter 15) and vertebrates (Chapters 16–18). As a whole, these chapters give a broad overview of what we have learned about the influence of polyploidy on genome evolution, whilst each individual chapter also represents a stand-alone introduction for those who are more interested in the specific organism in question. This list of monographs is so rich and diversified that it is tempting to look for the ones that are missing. For instance, it is surprising that there is no chapter dedicated to Brassica and/or Arabidopsis polyploids, despite the fact these species have contributed greatly to our current understanding of the mechanisms that are set in action after a new polyploid is formed. Although some of the main mechanistic findings obtained from Brassica and Arabidopsis polyploids are summarized in Chapters 3 and 4, a broader coverage requires turning to several recent reviews that provide an ideal complement to this book (see below). That said, the introduction of four monographs on non-plant organisms must be acknowledged; this is both timely and relevant, and it demonstrates that polyploidy is not a plant idiosyncrasy but a far more general evolutionary process. In this context, we would like to direct the reader's attention to the special issue of Cytogenetic and Genome Research (2013, vol. 140) entitled ‘Trends in Polyploidy Research in Animals and Plants’, which aims to mirror and contrast research on polyploid animals with that on plants.
Prior to these monographs, five chapters introduce key concepts or processes that are inextricably associated with polyploidy. Most notably, Chapter 1 (by McGrath and Lynch) describes in very clear terms, accessible to a non-specialist, the theoretical underpinning of duplicate gene maintenance and evolution; the evolutionary forces that act on any individual duplicate are detailed and compared with the processes that more specifically affect genes duplicated via a polyploidy event. This chapter provides an excellent entry into a much more complex literature and is thus ideal for advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Another major interest of this book is the presence of a chapter dedicated to meiosis in polyploids (Chapter 3), an issue that has for a long time received little attention.
In the preface, the book's editors rightly emphasize that ‘it has been over 30 years since the publication of a comprehensive treatment of polyploidy (Polyploidy: Biological Relevance; W.H. Lewis, ed.; 1980)’. During this period, the rapid development of ever-newer and ‘better’ genomic technologies has revolutionized our appreciation of genome evolutionary dynamics and thus has called for a modern treatment of the pervasive role played by polyploidy. Polyploidy and genome evolution is therefore both a timely and relevant publication to meet this need. This book is not quite unique, however, and those interested in polyploidy and genome evolution have benefitted from other recent publications. Two books on plant genome diversity have been published since 2012, namely volumes 1 and 2 of Plant genome diversity (Greilhuber et al., 2012; Wendel et al., 2013) and Polyploid and hybrid genomics (Chen and Birchler, 2013). All these books appear to complement each other very well.
In conclusion, this book by Soltis and Soltis can be fully recommended to students, teachers and advanced researchers or other professionals in all fields of plant science, and not only in evolutionary genetics, for whom it will provide a valuable overview of the recent advances made in the field of the polyploidy-based evolution of eukaryotes, and notably of angiosperms.