Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

17.02.2015

At least 5 mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study led by researchers at the University of Gothenburg shows that plants have been very resilient to those events.

For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world’s surface. During this long history, many smaller and a few major periods of extinction severely affected Earth’s ecosystems and its biodiversity.


Dr. Alexandre Antonelli, University of Gothenburg

University of Gothenburg


Dr. Daniele Silvestro, University of Gothenburg, Sweden & University of Lausanne, Switzerland

University of Gothenburg

In the upcoming issue of the journal New Phytologist, the team reports their results based on more than 20,000 plant fossils with the aim to understand the effects of such dramatic events on plant diversity. Their findings show that mass extinction events had very different impacts among plant groups.

Negative rates of diversification in plants (meaning that more species died out than new species were formed) were never sustained through long time periods. This indicates that, in general, plants have been particularly good at surviving and recovering through tough periods.

“In the plant kingdom, mass extinction events can be seen as opportunities for turnover leading to renewed biodiversity,” says leading author Daniele Silvestro.

Most striking were the results for the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction, caused by the impact of an asteroid off the Mexican coast some 66 million years ago. This event had a great impact on the configuration of terrestrial habitats and led to the extinction of all dinosaurs except birds, but surprisingly it had only limited effects on plant diversity.

Some important plant groups, such as the gymnosperms (including pines, spruce and firs) lost a great deal of their diversity through extinction. On the other hand, flowering plants (angiosperms) did not suffer from increased extinction, and shortly after the impact they underwent a new rapid increase in their diversity. These evolutionary dynamics contributed to make flowering plants dominate today’s global diversity above all other plant groups.

“Mass extinctions are often thought as a bad thing, but they have been crucial in changing the world into how we know it today,” says senior author Alexandre Antonelli.

If that asteroid had not struck the Earth, chances are that large dinosaurs would still be hunting around, mammals would be small and hiding in caves, and humans might never have evolved.

“By studying such extreme events we are trying to learn which groups of organisms and features are more sensitive to changes, so that we can apply this knowledge to protect biodiversity in the face of on-going climate change and human deterioration of natural ecosystems,” concludes Antonelli.

Details on the publication:

Silvestro D, Cascales-Miñana B, Bacon CD, Antonelli A: Revisiting the origin and diversification of vascular plants through a comprehensive Bayesian analysis of the fossil record. New Phytologist (2015).

The full article is available free of charge at the following link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nph.13247/abstract

Note to Press. For more information you can contact:

Dr. Daniele Silvestro, phone +41 764 909931, e-mail: daniele.silvestro@unil.ch.
University of Gothenburg, Sweden & University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Dr. Alexandre Antonelli, phone +46 703 989570, e-mail: alexandre.antonelli@bioenv.gu.se. University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Weitere Informationen:

http://science.gu.se/english/News/News_detail//plants-survive-better-through-mas...

Henrik Axlid | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

InLight study: insights into chemical processes using light

05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>