Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cross-species mating may be evolutionarily important and lead to rapid change

08.08.2003


Like the snap of a clothespin, the sudden mixing of closely related species may occasionally provide the energy to impel rapid evolutionary change, according to a new report by researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and three other institutions. Their paper was made available online by Science magazine´s "Science Express" service.



A study of sunflower species that began 15 years ago shows that the sudden mixing and matching of different species´ genes can create genetic super-combinations that are considerably more advantageous to the survival and reproduction of their owners than the gene combinations their parents possess.

"This is the clearest evidence to date that hybridization can be evolutionarily important," said IUB biologist Loren Rieseberg, who led the research. "What´s more, we were able to demonstrate a possible mechanism for rapid evolutionary change by replicating the births of three unusual and ecologically divergent species within an extremely short period of time -- just a few generations."


The finding comes a month after IUB biologist Jeffrey Palmer and colleagues suggested in a letter to Nature that genetic exchange between completely unrelated species has occurred more often than experts previously thought.

There are many modern examples of hybridization in nature, some forced, some natural. Mules are bred by humans from horses and donkeys, are completely sterile, and represent an evolutionary dead-end. But there are other species-crossings that do just fine, such as offspring of the notoriously promiscuous oak tree species, which hybridize so often species-namers commonly joke about not being able to keep up.

Still, cross-species matings usually result in sickness or sterility, if the offspring get that far -- many naturally abort. Hybrid offspring that are fertile but sick or weak will not be able to compete with the purer offspring of either parent in passing on their genes to future generations. As a result, many evolutionary biologists have thought hybridization to be evolutionarily unimportant.

But Rieseberg´s new report suggests that even weak, hybrid offspring can acquire new, strong combinations of genes from their parents. As long as those offspring are just virile enough to transmit their useful genes to their own offspring, those genes may fight their way into populations of either or both parent species and become evolutionarily important. Hybridization has been used to great effect in the creation of successful crops and animal breeds, but many evolutionary biologists have resisted accepting hybridization´s importance in a world before the appearance of modern humans.

"We´re all aware hybridization and intensive cross-breeding has produced better corn and better cows," Rieseberg said. "Yet there´s been resistance in the evolutionary biology community to the notion that evolution might sometimes be facilitated by hybridization."

Rieseberg and his team compared the physical, physiological and genetic traits of several sunflower species. Two of the species, Helianthus annuus and H. petiolaris, are considered "parental," or more ancient. Another three species the scientists studied, H. anomalus, H. deserticola and H. paradoxus, are believed to have evolved somewhat recently, as hybrids of the two parental sunflower species, between 60,000 and 200,000 years ago. The three hybrid species are remarkable in being adapted to very extreme habitats: sand dunes, dry desert floor and salt marshes, respectively. The researchers also created their own hybrids of H. annuus and H. petiolaris.

The researchers found that their synthetic hybrids quickly acquired the traits necessary to colonize the extreme habitats of their naturally evolved hybrid counterparts, suggesting that potentially useful traits can be created quickly. Rieseberg and his team also found that the traits were largely the same as those produced by natural selection during the evolution of the natural hybrid species. Through cross-breeding, the researchers were able to simulate the birth of three new species and the large and dramatic evolutionary changes that accompanied their origins.

"It´s often very easy to explain small differences we see within a species, but harder to account for larger differences between species that require changes in multiple traits or genes," Rieseberg said. "We have provided an explanation for how some of these more difficult changes might happen. Dramatic evolutionary changes are most likely to occur when parental species are very different from each other, creating a much broader array of gene and trait combinations."

Researchers at La Laboratoire de Biologie Moleculaire et Phytochimie (Villeurbanne, France), the University of Georgia and Kent State University also contributed to the report. It was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

David Bricker | Indiana Universty
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>