Comparative genetic linkage maps provide a powerful tool for the study of karyotypic evolution. We constructed a joint SSR/RAPD genetic linkage map of the Helianthus petiolaris genome and used it, along with an integrated SSR genetic linkage map derived from four independent H. annuus mapping populations, to examine the evolution of genome structure between these two annual sunflower species. The results of this work indicate the presence of 27 colinear segments resulting from a minimum of eight translocations and three inversions. These 11 rearrangements are more than previously suspected on the basis of either cytological or genetic map-based analyses. Taken together, these rearrangements required a minimum of 20 chromosomal breakages/fusions. On the basis of estimates of the time since divergence of these two species (750,000-1,000,000 years), this translates into an estimated rate of 5.5-7.3 chromosomal rearrangements per million years of evolution, the highest rate reported for any taxonomic group to date.
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