A team of Belgian biologists led by researchers at KU Leuven has provided the first genetic evidence that rapid evolution can help non-native plant species spread in new environments. Using samples of centuries-old herbaria and DNA analysis, the researchers reconstructed the genetic adaptations undergone by the Pyrenean rocket prior to its rapid spread in Belgium.
The Pyrenean rocket (Sisymbrium austriacum subsp. Chrysanthum) is a plant that grows in the mountains of southern Europe and is particularly prevalent in the Pyrenees. The species was first reported in Belgium – 1,200 kilometres north of its native range – in the first half of the 19th century.
The Pyrenean rocket (pictured) is a harmless plant, but some exotics can become a real plague even after a period of unproblematic presence in a non-native environment. | Photo © Katrien Vandepitte
Seeds from the plant were most likely introduced alongside the wool industry in and around Verviers. The Pyrenean rocket took root on the banks of the River Vesdre in Verviers and later spread across the Meuse basin towards the Netherlands.
The colonization history of the Pyrenean rocket is well documented, explains postdoctoral researcher and corresponding author Katrien Vandepitte (Plant Conservation and Population Biology Research Group):
“We found dried specimens of the Pyrenean rocket in herbaria from the 19th and 20th centuries and were able to isolate DNA from these samples. We then compared this DNA with the genetic profile of contemporary samples from Belgium and the Pyrenees. This gave us a unique opportunity to reconstruct when and how an exotic plant species genetically adapted to a new environment.”
“When we looked at the genetic evolution of the Pyrenean rocket, we found the greatest divergences in a set of genes that regulate flowering time, an important plant fitness trait. When we compared current individuals taken from our region and the Pyrenees, both grown under Belgian conditions, the Belgian variant bloomed later.”
“Our DNA analysis shows that the Belgian variant genetically adapted quite rapidly – in about 20 generations. This very likely helped the plant to survive and spread here.”
“Our findings are important because until now evidence supporting the hypothesis that exotic plants can spread after a period of rapid genetic adaptation has been very scant,” says Dr. Vandepitte.
The results also suggest that we should be wary of ‘latent’ non-native plant species. “These plants can be present in small numbers for years before spreading as a result of genetic adaptation. The Pyrenean rocket is a harmless plant, but some exotics can become a real plague. And this can occur even after a period of unproblematic presence in a non-native environment.”
The researchers’ findings were published as the cover story in the May issue of the journal Molecular Ecology.
Katrien Vandepitte | Eurek Alert!
Worldwide Success of Tyrolean Wastewater Treatment Technology
27.05.2016 | Universität Innsbruck
How nanoparticles flow through the environment
12.05.2016 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF
A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.
The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...
Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.
The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...
In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.
In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...
Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices
Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.
When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene
In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...
24.05.2016 | Event News
20.05.2016 | Event News
19.05.2016 | Event News
27.05.2016 | Awards Funding
27.05.2016 | Life Sciences
27.05.2016 | Life Sciences