Unlike humans, which are diploids — with two copies of each of their 23 chromosomes (one from each parent), — polyploids can have three, four or more copies of each chromosome. This makes them particularly prone to producing hybrids and, — in contrast to better-known hybrids such as the mule which is (the sterile product of a cross between a male donkey and a female horse), means that crosses between polyploids are often fertile.
While hybrids might be expected to be a blend of the two parent species, the researchers found that they tended to have shorter and wider flower openings than both of the parent species which means that a wider range of pollinators can enter the flowers.
By allowing a wider range of insects to pollinate them, hybrids make themselves much less vulnerable to the extinction of a single pollinator. More. Paper. (paywall) – Elizabeth W. McCarthy, Mark W. Chase, Sandra Knapp, Amy Litt, Andrew R. Leitch, Steven C. Le Comber. Transgressive phenotypes and generalist pollination in the floral evolution of Nicotiana polyploids. Nature Plants, 2016; 2: 16119 DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2016.119
See also: Life continues to ignore what evolution experts say
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