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Evolutionary processes from the perspective of flowering time diversity.

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Although it is well appreciated that genetic studies of flowering time regulation have led to fundamental advances in the fields of molecular and developmental biology, the ways in which genetic studies of flowering time diversity have enriched the field of evolutionary biology have received less attention despite often being equally profound. Because flowering time is a complex, environmentally responsive trait that has critical impacts on plant fitness, crop yield, and reproductive isolation, research into the genetic architecture and molecular basis of its evolution continues to yield novel insights into our understanding of domestication, adaptation, and speciation. For instance, recent studies of flowering time variation have reconstructed how, when, and where polygenic evolution of phenotypic plasticity proceeded from standing variation and de novo mutations; shown how antagonistic pleiotropy and temporally varying selection maintain polymorphisms in natural populations; and provided important case studies of how assortative mating can evolve and facilitate speciation with gene flow. In addition, functional studies have built detailed regulatory networks for this trait in diverse taxa, leading to new knowledge about how and why developmental pathways are rewired and elaborated through evolutionary time.

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