Broadly sampled phylogenies have uncovered extreme deviations from a molecular clock with the rates of molecular substitution varying dramatically within/among lineages. While growth form, a proxy for life history, is strongly correlated with molecular rate heterogeneity, its influence on trait evolution has yet to be examined. Here, we explore genome size evolution in relation to growth form by combining recent advances in large-scale phylogeny construction with model-based phylogenetic comparative methods. We construct phylogenies for Monocotyledonae (monocots) and Fabaceae (legumes), including all species with genome size information, and assess whether rates of genome size evolution depend on growth form. We found that the rates of genome size evolution for woody lineages were consistently an order of magnitude slower than those of herbaceous lineages. Our findings also suggest that growth form constrains genome size evolution, not through consequences associated with the phenotype, but instead through the influence of life history attributes on the tempo of evolution. Consequences associated with life history now extend to genomic evolution and may shed light on the frequently observed threshold effect of genome size variation on higher phenotypic traits.
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