Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Notre Dame research into oaks helps us understand climate change

03.08.2012
Jeanne Romero-Severson, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame, and her collaborators, are tracking the evolution of the live oaks of eastern North America, seeking to understand how the trees adapted to climate change during glacial periods.

When the ice advanced, the oaks retreated. When the ice retreated the oaks advanced, spreading from tropical to temperate zones, up from Central America and Mexico into the Piedmont Carolinas. The researchers expect the study of live oak migrations and phylogeny will provide clues to the success of the oaks that range up into northern Ontario in Canada.

Oaks originated in southeast Asia before the continents split and migrated both east and west, but North America has far more species than other regions. Researchers have long suspected that repeated climate challenges might have led to this diversity. Previous studies have shown that the live oaks that live in Mexico cannot survive the Carolina winters. This shows that there are genetic differences between the southern live oaks and their northern descendants.

"In Mexico, live oaks do not experience repeated cycles of freezing and thawing," Romero-Severson says. "Are the live oak species that now live further north different species because of this cold tolerance? What about the live oak species that span the tropical-temperate divide? It is logical to assume there is a genetic basis for the ability to survive in those cold temperatures. With four groups of researchers working together, we can tease out how it was that oaks were able to adapt to the climate as they moved north. What were the genetic changes they underwent?"

Romero-Severson focuses on genetics and genomics of the oaks. Andrew Hipp of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill., is studying their morphological differences; Paul Manos of Duke University is studying their systematics (family trees based on DNA markers); and Jeannine Cavender-Bares of the University of Minnesota is studying their ecophysiology, including the survival of seedlings in cold temperatures. A National Science Foundation grant supports the research.

The team hypothesizes that trees in contact with relatives who could just manage to survive in the cold were able to "capture" from these relatives a few genes favorable for survival in colder climates, without retaining extensive genetic changes that would alter their morphology. Different animal species rarely hybridize in nature and when they do, the offspring are often sterile, like mules. Different forest tree species often make fertile interspecific hybrids, but the parent species remain morphologically distinct.

"It's a mystery to us how oak species can have rampant interspecies hybridization and yet maintain species distinction, but they do," Romero-Severson says. "Favorable gene combinations from one live oak species can be captured by any other live oak species." There might be an "interspecific hybrid screen," a process that retains a relatively small number of good genes that equip the species for successful northward migration, while maintaining all the other genes that determine species identity.

Identification of the genetic changes in the relatively small number of live oak species in the southeastern United States and Mexico can provide clues for study of the more extensive deciduous red and white oaks, which reach from the Caribbean into California to the west and up into Canada from the east. Eastern North America alone has more than two dozen red oak species and close to two dozen white oak species. Some regions in the southeastern United States have the highest concentration of oak species in the world.

"Our hypothesis is that the same set of genes is involved in cold tolerance in all of these species," Romero-Severson says. "We feel that we have defined the problem so carefully that what we learn from these live oaks will help us understand how evolution works, and how natural adaptation arises. Our goal is to understand the role of hybridization in the evolution of forest trees and how forest trees actually respond to rapid climate change."

Romero-Severson, who came to Notre Dame in 2003, is also part of a team of researchers from seven universities with an NSF grant to develop genomics tools for finding the genetic basis for tolerance to the introduced insects and diseases that threaten the nation's hardwood trees.

Jeanne Romero-Severson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nd.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>