Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Major mutations, not many small changes, might lead way to new species

13.11.2003


Hummingbirds visited nearly 70 times more often after scientists altered the color of a kind of monkeyflower from pink – beloved by bees but virtually ignored by hummingbirds – to a hummer-attractive yellow-orange.



Researchers writing in the Nov. 13 issue of Nature say perhaps it was a major change or two, such as petal color, that first forged the fork in the evolutionary road that led to today’s species of monkeyflowers that are attractive to and pollinated by hummingbirds and separate species of monkeyflowers that are pollinated by bees.

The color change is the result, it appears, of mutation in a single gene, according to H.D. "Toby" Bradshaw, a professor of biology at the University of Washington and lead author of the Nature piece. He says the resulting quick change in pollinator preferences adds to the debate over whether new species arise according to the classic, 150-year-old Darwin theory of evolution that says it may take a hundred small genetic changes, each with mounting effect, or might speciation be kick-started by a few mutations that cause large effects.


"It could be that the first adaptations require a few big changes, sort of like taking a watch that has stopped ticking and banging it a few times before making the small tweaks to restore its optimal performance," says Douglas Schemske, professor of plant biology at Michigan State University and co-author of the letter in Nature.

There are 123 species of monkeyflowers, a wildflower found around the world. Mimulus lewisii appeals to bees with forward-thrusting petals that serve as a landing platform and yellow nectar guides that contrast with the pale pink flowers. The closely related M. cardinalis, on the other hand, has a deep, tubular shape that excludes bees but is easily probed by the slender beaks of hummingbirds, and has red or deep yellow-orange petals, colors bees can’t see.

These and other differences make the species of monkeyflowers distinct and nearly eliminates crossbreeding in the wild.

In an experiment funded by the National Science Foundation, the researchers changed the region of a chromosome, thought to be a single gene, that affects the concentration of yellow pigment in petals of monkeyflowers. M. lewisii, the normal favorite of bees, responded with petals of yellow-orange instead of the usual pink. Although its other features – flower size, petal shape and amount of nectar – were unchanged, the resulting flowers were suddenly being visited 68 times more often by hummingbirds. The flowers were actually shunned by bees, probably because orange is in the spectrum of light they don’t see.

In another alteration as part of the experiment, M. cardinalis, usually favored by hummingbirds, responded with petals that were dark pink rather than deep red. These flowers appealed equally to hummingbirds and bees.

Bradshaw and Schemske say altering just the genetic region responsible for the concentration of yellow pigment is much like what might happen during a naturally occurring mutation.

"Perhaps a single mutation having to do with color changed the pollinator milieu back when there was only a single species," Bradshaw says. That one big evolutionary step may then have been followed by many smaller steps triggered by pollinator preferences that led ultimately to different species.

Monkeyflowers, so-called because someone once imagined the face of a monkey in the markings on the blossoms, have been used by researchers interested in ecology and evolution for more than 50 years. The plants readily reveal the effects of crossbreeding and can be planted in native settings so they are useful for experiments.

"A unique aspect of out work is that it combines ecological observations with molecular genetic techniques to elucidate the process of adaptation in natural populations," Schemske says.

Schemske, Bradshaw and researchers at Duke University, Clemson University, University of North Carolina and University of Montana recently received $5 million for the study of monkeyflowers and questions of how species arise. The money is part of the new Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research program .



For more information
Bradshaw, (206) 954-4392, toby@u.washington.edu (On Veterans Day, it will be best to call rather than use e-mail)
Schemske, (517) 432-5289, schem@msu.edu
Michigan State University media contact: Tom Oswald, (517) 432-0920, oswald@msu.edu
NSF’s Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research explores biology’s mysteries:
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/03/pr03106.htm

Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/03/pr03106.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht High-Speed Locomotion Neurons Found in the Brainstem
24.10.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Antibiotic resistance: a strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli is on the rise
24.10.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Single nanoparticle mapping paves the way for better nanotechnology

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A quantum spin liquid

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Antibiotic resistance: a strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli is on the rise

24.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>