Homomorphic plant sex chromosomes are coming of age.
Sex chromosomes are a very peculiar part of the genome that have evolved independently in many groups of animals and plants (Bull ). Major research efforts have so far been focused on large heteromorphic sex chromosomes in a few animal and plant species (Chibalina & Filatov ; Zhou & Bachtrog ; Bellott et al. ; Hough et al. ; Zhou et al. ), while homomorphic (cytologically indistinguishable) sex chromosomes have largely been neglected. However, this situation is starting to change. In this issue, Geraldes et al. () describe a small (~100 kb long) sex-determining region on the homomorphic sex chromosomes of poplars (Populus trichocarpa and related species, Fig. ). All species in Populus and its sister genus Salix are dioecious, suggesting that dioecy and the sex chromosomes, if any, should be relatively old. Contrary to this expectation, Geraldes et al. () demonstrate that the sex-determining region in poplars is of very recent origin and probably evolved within the genus Populus only a few million years ago.