Plant Cell 27: 2770-2784.
The Brassicaceae include several major crop plants and numerous important model species in comparative evolutionary research such as Arabidopsis, Brassica, Boechera, Thellungiella, and Arabis species. As any evolutionary hypothesis needs to be placed in a temporal context, reliably dated major splits within the evolution of Brassicaceae are essential. We present a comprehensive time-calibrated framework with important divergence time estimates based on whole-chloroplast sequence data for 29 Brassicaceae species. Diversification of the Brassicaceae crown group started at the Eocene-to-Oligocene transition. Subsequent major evolutionary splits are dated to ∼20 million years ago, coinciding with the Oligocene-to-Miocene transition, with increasing drought and aridity and transient glaciation events. The age of the Arabidopsis thaliana crown group is 6 million years ago, at the Miocene and Pliocene border. The overall species richness of the family is well explained by high levels of neopolyploidy (43% in total), but this trend is neither directly associated with an increase in genome size nor is there a general lineage-specific constraint. Our results highlight polyploidization as an important source for generating new evolutionary lineages adapted to changing environments. We conclude that species radiation, paralleled by high levels of neopolyploidization, follows genome size decrease, stabilization, and genetic diploidization.