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    Shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia) is a wind-pollinated dioecious shrub of western North America with an unusual development of apparently autoploid races, showing all even ploidy levels from 2x to 12x (base x = 9). Of these, tetraploid races are the most frequently encountered, with octoploids the next most common, and hexaploids being much less common. In this study, the occurrence of neopolyploid individuals within tetraploid and hexaploid populations of shadscale was examined at natural sites in order to investigate the pathways by which octoploids may be formed and to find a possible explanation for the predominance of octoploids over hexaploids. The frequencies of apparent neopolyploid individuals among adults and the frequencies of their backcrosses were tabulated, as was the occurrence of neopolyploidy among seeds of female plants from some of the same populations. The neopolyploids encountered in these surveys were almost exclusively those expected from unions involving single unreduced gametes. 6x presumed neopolyploid plants were observed in tetraploid populations at a frequency of 0.20%, and 6x seeds were observed at a frequency of 1.91%. Within examined hexaploid populations, 9x adults were not encountered, but 9x seeds were observed at a rate of 0.52%. Evidence was obtained for the operation of some postulated autoploid pathways for generation of octoploids, but these routes did not operate at rates comparable to those for the production of hexaploids. Although the question needs to be studied by genetic methods, the most probable reason for scarcity of hexaploids in nature appears to be that some tetraploid races are diploidized, which would result in irregularities of meiosis in their neohexaploids and a failure to form new races due to infertility and inviability.

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    Sanderson, Stewart C. 2011. Natural polyploidization within tetraploid and hexaploid populations of the desert shrub Atriplex confertifolia. Western North American Naturalist. 71(2): 141-150.


    shadscale, Atriplex confertifolia, desert shrub

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