Evolutionary Rates in Veronica L. (Plantaginaceae): Disentangling the Influence of Life History and Breeding System
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The evolutionary rate at which DNA sequences evolve is known to differ between different groups of organisms. However, the reasons for these different rates are seldom known. Among plants, the generation-time hypothesis, which states that organisms that reproduce faster also have more DNA substitutions per time, has gained most popularity. We evaluate the generation-time hypothesis using 131 DNA sequences from the plastid trnLF region and the nuclear ribosomal ITS region of the genus Veronica (Plantaginaceae). We also examine the alternative hypothesis that a higher substitution rate is correlated with selfing breeding system. Selfing is associated with annual life history in many organisms and may thus often be the underlying reason for observed correlations of annual life history with other characters. We provide evidence that annual life history is more likely to be the responsible factor for higher substitution rates in Veronica than a selfing breeding system. Nevertheless, the way in which annual life history may influence substitution rate in detail remains unknown, and some possibilities are discussed.