In flowers called columbines, evolution of the length of nectar spurs--the long tubes leading to plants' nectar--happens in a way that allows flowers to match the tongue lengths of the pollinators that drink their nectar, biologists have found.
The researchers were Justen Whittall of the University of California at Davis and Scott Hodges of the University of California at Santa Barbara. They were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Their results appear in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
Darwin once proposed a co-evolutionary "race" to explain how natural selection might account for the evolution of very long nectar spurs in flowers, said Hodges. "In Darwin's race, plants with the longest spurs and pollinators with the longest tongues [to tap the flowers' nectar] would be favored by natural selection, and--in a never-ending process--continually drive the plants' spurs and the pollinator tongues to exceptionally long lengths."
But it turns out, Whittall and Hodges found, that evolution acts in a more one-sided fashion in many plants: the plants evolve nectar spurs to match the tongue-lengths of the pollinators. Then the process stops, and only starts again when there is a change in pollinators.
Whittall and Hodges proved this idea by testing the columbine genus Aquilegia, which is pollinated by bumblebees, hummingbirds and hawkmoths.
They found that most of the columbines' nectar spur length evolution happened during shifts in pollinators from bumblebees to hummingbirds, and from hummingbirds to hawkmoths. In between these shifts, evolution of the columbines' nectar spurs came to a halt.
Whittall and Hodges' work provides evidence that evolution may occur in a stop-and-go pattern--one in which adaptation to specific pollinators occurs very rapidly, followed by periods of no further evolution until another pollinator shift occurs, according to William Zamer, deputy director of NSF's division of integrative organismal systems.
"In the case of these flowers, changes appear to happen relatively rapidly in response to changes in pollinators," said Zamer.
‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie
Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy