This finding suggests that quick-growing plants such as weeds may cope better with global warming than slower-growing plants such as Redwood trees -- a phenomenon that could lead to future changes in the Earth's plant life.
"Some species evolve fast enough to keep up with environmental change," said Arthur Weis, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "Global warming may increase the pace of this change so that certain species may have difficulty keeping up. Plants with longer life cycles will have fewer generations over which to evolve."
The study appears the week of Jan. 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Weis and researchers Steven Franks and Sheina Sim studied field mustard, a weedy plant found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In a greenhouse, they grew mustard plants at the same time from seeds collected near the UCI campus in the spring of 1997 -- two years before a five-year drought -- and seeds collected after the drought in the winter of 2004. Seeds can remain dormant but alive for years and be revived with a little water and light. The plants were divided into three groups, each receiving different amounts of water mimicking precipitation patterns ranging from drought to very wet conditions. In all cases, the post-drought generation flowered earlier, regardless of the watering scheme.
This shift in genetic timing was further confirmed with an experiment that crossed the ancestors and descendents. As predicted, the intergenerational hybrids had an intermediate flowering time.
"Early winter rainfall did not change much during the drought, but the late winters and springs were unusually dry. This precipitation pattern put a selective pressure on plants to flower earlier, especially annual plants like field mustard," Franks said. "During drought, early bloomers complete seed production before the soil dries out, whereas late bloomers wither before they can seed."
The technique of growing ancestors and descendents at the same time allowed the scientists to determine that the change in flower timing was in fact an evolutionary shift -- not a simple reaction to changing weather conditions. This method, pioneered by Albert Bennett, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and acting dean of the School of Biological Sciences at UCI, has been used with bacteria, but this is the first study to make full use of it with a plant species. Bennett and his colleagues froze ancestral strains of E. coli so they could evaluate the bacterium's adaptive evolution after culturing it at elevated temperatures for thousands of generations.
Today, Weis is the organizing chairman of Project Baseline, a national effort to collect and preserve seeds from contemporary plant populations. Decades from now, plant biologists will be able to "resurrect" these ancestral generations and compare them to their descendents. By that time, advanced DNA technology may make it possible to sequence the entire genome of individual plants and at low cost. If so, biologists will be able to measure how much plants have evolved with climate change and pinpoint the evolution's underlying genetic basis.
Scientists expect global warming to alter air circulation patterns over the Pacific Ocean, and climate models predict frequent and extreme fluctuations in precipitation along the coast, which likely will affect plant life.
"If we go out today and collect a large number of seeds and freeze them, they will be a resource available to the next generation of scientists," Weis said. "Because of global warming, the evolution explosion is already under way. If we act now, we'll have the tools necessary to determine in the future how species respond to climate change."
When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences