Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers map ’super-tree’ of flowering plants, solving Darwin’s "abominable mystery"

26.02.2004


The secret of how flowering plants evolved into one of the Earth’s most dominant and diverse groups of organisms is revealed in study led by researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Imperial College London.

Described by Charles Darwin as an "abominable mystery", the team publish the first complete evolutionary ’super-tree’ of relationships among all families of flowering plants in current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Using a combination of DNA sequence data and statistical techniques for analysing biodiversity, the team concludes that Darwin’s suspicion that there is not a simple explanation for the large biodiversity of flowering plants was correct.



Dr Tim Barraclough of Imperial’s Department of Biological Sciences and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says:

"The idea that key evolutionary innovations drive an organism’s ability to diversify has been popular with evolutionary biologists for the past 10 years or so. But there’s a growing consensus that pinning the success of any group on a single innovation, such as insect fertilisation in the case of flowering plants, is too simplistic."

"Instead, the diversity of flowering plant families is the result of interaction between existing biological traits and the environment in which the plant grows. Effectively biodiversity depends on being the right plant in the right place at the right time."

"For example, grasses appear to be very successful because they have a suite of traits that allows them to thrive in cooler and drier environments. Their form of growth also makes them resistant to fire. But the same traits would not confer abundance and diversity in warmer, wetter environments."

In a letter to Joseph Hooker, Kew’s first Director, in 1879, Darwin outlined his "abominable mystery" of flowering plants’ rapid diversification. Darwin described his own efforts to identify a single cause as "wretchedly poor".

Subsequent attempts to understand this diversity have been revolutionized by the recent advent of molecular phylogenetics, which uses DNA sequence analysis to map evolutionary relationships. Using this technique, the team were able to compile the wealth of data from over 40 previous large-scale DNA studies on flowering plants into one super-tree.

"Even a decade ago, researchers said it was impossible to build a complete tree of flowering plant families. But recent advances in molecular phylogenetics have heralded a new era in analysing biodiversity," explains Dr Vincent Savolainen of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

"Our examination of the top 10 major shifts in diversification, which include the grass family and the pea family, indicates they cannot easily be attributed to the action of a few key innovations."

Dr Savolainen added: "The new super-tree will be a unique resource for future studies on plant diversity, ranging from biodiversity, gene evolution and ecological studies. It represents a major step towards the ’Tree of Life’, an international effort to recover the evolutionary relationships of all 1.5 million known species on Earth."

Dr Tim Barraclough and Professor Mark Chase are Royal Society University Research Fellows.

Hannah Rogers | Imperial College London
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk/P4929.htm
http://tolweb.org/tree/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals
23.08.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Treating arthritis with algae
23.08.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers devise microreactor to study formation of methane hydrate

23.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

ShAPEing the future of magnesium car parts

23.08.2017 | Automotive Engineering

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>