Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Snapdragons take the evolutionary high-road

18.08.2006
Roses are red, violets are blue, but why aren't snapdragons orange? Norwich scientists from the John Innes Centre (JIC) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with the Université Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France) have developed a pioneering computer modelling technique that traces the evolutionary paths underlying flower colour variation in the model plant snapdragon (Antirrhinum).Their research, funded by the BBSRC and published today in the journal Science, shows how flower colour diversity has evolved in natural populations of these plants in the Pyrenees.

In the wild, only the plants with the most attractive flower colours are able to reproduce and thrive because the insects that pollinate them prefer certain colours. The bees that pollinate snapdragon find magenta and yellow flowers the most attractive; they do not find colours such as orange attractive and so flowers of this colour would not flourish in the wild due to lack of pollination. Scientists already know that natural colour variation is controlled by three genes: ROSEA and ELUTA affect the intensity and pattern of the magenta pigment anthocyanin and thirdly SULFUREA affects the distribution of the yellow aurone pigment. The researchers in this study wanted to understand how plants producing magenta or yellow flowers could evolve from a common ancestor without producing in-between non-attractive flower colours such as orange.

"This is a totally different way of looking at evolution and could lead to a better understanding of the rules that govern biodiversity" explains Coen, "If we can comprehend how Antirrhinum genes interact in their natural habitat, it may help us in the future to better preserve genetic diversity".

The team led by Enrico Coen (JIC) and Andrew Bangham (UEA) combined molecular, genetic and computational approaches to analyse flower colour variation in natural populations of snapdragon. Using a traditional model, a plot of evolutionary fitness for this study appears to have two peaks: one at the magenta end of the colour spectrum and a second peak at the yellow end, with a trough in the middle representing non-attractive intermediate colours such as orange. As a result, for a plant to evolve from producing magenta flowers to yellow ones it would first have to pass through the trough and produce non-attractive orange flowers before developing yellow ones. However, as Bangham points out, “There are computational methods for understanding and visualising high-dimensional problems that provide new insights”. With these, a more realistic model was created and the researchers discovered that different attributes (phenotypes) that previously appeared as separate peaks in the adaptive landscape, were in fact connected by paths in higher dimensions, forming a U-shaped cloud, with one arm representing magenta connected to the second arm representing yellow. Using this new model, the scientists could trace the evolutionary path that linked these two apparently distinct colour attributes.

"We now understand how these plants can evolve to produce different colours whilst staying attractive to pollinating insects – we've found that colour is variable but constrained to a defined path" states Enrico Coen. But if pollinators prefer certain coloured flowers, why aren't all flowers the same colour? "We still do not know precisely why flower colours should vary in the first place," says Coen, "it could be due to drifting of colours from one to another by accumulation of genetic errors, or alternatively there could be a selective advantage for certain colours in different environments".

The researchers are now applying this new way of modelling evolution to other phenotypes, allowing them to identify how apparently distinct attributes are linked through evolution.

Vicky Just | alfa
Further information:
http://www.jic.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed
18.01.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht 127 at one blow...
18.01.2017 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>