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Welcome to the Mercurialis Genomics Network webpage!

This webpage aims at centralization and further development of resources in the Mercurialis sp genus, with a special focus on Mercurialis annua L., the annual mercury. Mercurialis annua is a wind-pollinated annual herb with a wide native distribution in Europe and North Africa. This species complex shows an unusually broad variation in its sexual and genetic systems. Eastern, central and (partially) western European diploid populations of M. annua have separate sexes (i.e. are dioecious), while tetraploid/hexaploid populations in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa have combined sexes (i.e. are monoecious), probably as a result of selection for reproductive assurance associated with population establishment during range expansion.

Male (A), female (B) and monoecious (C) individuals of Mercurialis annua. Photos: J. Baker.

Male (A), female (B) and monoecious (C) individuals of Mercurialis annua. Photos: J. Baker.

Large genotypic and phenotypic geographical variation, and at least two putative glacial refugia, one in eastern Europe (Turkey) and another one in northern Africa (Morocco), have been described in this species. M. annua thus stands out as an ideal model to study the role of mating and genetic factors on local adaptation. Moreover, populations of M. annua with separate sexes show remarkable gender specialization for a range of adaptive traits (e.g. inflorescence structure, size, root to shoot ratio, competitive ability, susceptibility to herbivory and nitrogen content), despite no cytological evidence of sex chromosomes. Thus, this model is also well-suited to address questions related to the ‘sex specialization’ hypothesis, which establishes that separate sexes evolve in response to selection for specialization in allocation to the male vs. female function.