The evolution of the polyploid Triticum wheats is distinctive in that domestication, natural hybridization and allopolyploid speciation have all had significant impacts on their diversification. In this review, I outline the phylogenetic relationships of cultivated wheats and their wild relatives and provide an overview of the recent progress and remaining issues in understanding the genetic and ecological factors that favored their evolution. An attempt is made to view the evolution of the polyploid Triticum wheats as a continuous process of diversification that was initiated by domestication of tetraploid emmer wheat and driven by various natural events ranging from interploidy introgression via hybridization to allopolyploid speciation of hexaploid common wheat, instead of viewing it as a group of discrete evolutionary processes that separately proceeded at the tetraploid and hexaploid levels. This standpoint underscores the important role of natural hybridization in the reticulate diversification of the tetraploid–hexaploid Triticum wheat complex and highlights critical, but underappreciated, issues that concern the allopolyploid speciation of common wheat.
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