These findings were made by botanists from the University of Basel using two plant species. So far, it was only known that the glacial climate changes had left a «genetic fingerprint» in the DNA of alpine plants.
During the Ice Ages the European Alps were covered by a thick layer of ice. Climate fluctuations led to great changes in the occurrences of plants: They survived the cold periods in refugia on the periphery of the Alps which they then repopulated after the ice had drawn back.
Such processes in the history of the earth can be detected by molecular analysis as «genetic fingerprints»: refugia and colonization routes can be identified as genetic groups within the plant species. Thus, the postglacial colonization history of alpine plants is still borne in plants alive today.
Yellow Bellflower and Creeping Avens
So far, it was unknown if the Ice Ages also affected the structure and growth habit of alpine plants. Prof. Jürg Stöcklin and his colleagues from the Institute of Botany at the University of Basel were now able to proof this phenomenon in two publications. The glacial periods have left marks on the Yellow Bellflower and the Creeping Avens that are visible to the naked eye. The ancestors of these plants survived the Ice Ages in different glacial refugia which led to the fact that today they show genetic differences in their external morphology and in important functional traits.
Notably, the Yellow Bellflower’s inflorescence and timing of flowering differ between plants from the Eastern Alps and plants from the central or western parts of the Alps. Regarding the Creeping Avens, plants from the Western Alps show significantly more offshoots but have fewer flowers than those from the Eastern Alps, while the dissection of the leaves increases from West to East.
Plants are more adaptable than assumed
The Botanists from Basel further discovered that the variations within one species are partly due to natural selection. For example, the timing of flowering in the Yellow Bellflower can be explained with variability in growing season length. Plants shorten their flowering duration as adaptation to the shorter growing seasons at higher elevations.
«The findings are important for understanding the effects that future climate changes may have on plants», says Stöcklin. «The glacial periods have positively affected the intraspecific biodiversity.» Furthermore, the scientists were able to show that plants are more adaptable than has been assumed previously. Climate changes do have an effect on the distribution of species; however, alpine plants also possess considerable skills to genetically adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Scheepens JF, Frei ES, Stöcklin J (2013)
Glacial history affected phenotypic differentiation in the Alpine plant, Campanula thyrsoides
PLOS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073854
Eva S. Frei, J. F. Scheepens, Georg F. J. Armbruster, Jürg Stöcklin
Phenotypic differentiation in a common garden reflects the phylogeography of a widespread Alpine plant
Journal of Ecology, Volume 100, Issue 2, pages 297–308, March 2012 | doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01909.x
• Prof. Jürg Stöcklin, University of Basel, Institute of Botany, Tel. +41 61 267 35 01, +41 79 817 57 33, Email: email@example.com
• Dr. J. F. Scheepens, currently: University of Turku, Section of Ecology, University Hill, Turku, Finland, Tel. +358 2 333 55 60, +358 46 542 39 35, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reto Caluori | Source: Universität Basel
Further information: www.unibas.ch
Further Reports about: alpine plants > Alpines Steinschaf > ant species > Bellflower > climate changes > Creeping Avens > crystalline > glacial period > Ice Ages > Plants > Southern Alps > Yellow Bellflower > yellow light
More articles from Earth Sciences:
Deep-Sea Study Reveals Cause of 2011 Tsunami
06.12.2013 | McGill University
No Undo for Climate Change: Potential Pitfalls of Geoengineering
05.12.2013 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
A star is formed when a large cloud of gas and dust condenses and eventually becomes so dense that it collapses into a ball of gas, where the pressure heats the matter, creating a glowing gas ball – a star is born.
New research from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, shows that a young, newly formed star in the Milky Way had such an explosive growth, that it was initially about 100 times brighter than it is now. The results are published in the scientific journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The young ...
06.12.2013 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News