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 A novel socio-ecological approach helps identifying suitable wolf habitats
17.02.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht New, ultra-flexible probes form reliable, scar-free integration with the brain
16.02.2017 | University of Texas at Austin

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>