Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research sheds new light on process of evolution

13.11.2003


For more than a century, scientists have concluded that a species evolves or adapts by going through an infinite number of small genetic changes over a long period of time.



However, a team of researchers, including a Michigan State University plant biologist, has provided new evidence that an alternate theory is actually at work, one in which the process begins with several large mutations before settling down into a series of smaller ones.

The research is published in the Nov. 12 issue of the journal Nature.


“The question is asked, ‘If a population finds itself in some maladaptive state, due perhaps to a change in climate, how will it adapt?’” said Douglas Schemske, MSU Hannah Professor of Plant Biology and a member of the research team. “The evidence that has come to light recently – both in plants and other organisms – is that the initial changes are bigger than we might have expected.”

To study the question, Schemske and his colleagues used a common plant called the monkeyflower, changing its genetic make up in a rather dramatic way to see if it would attract new pollinators – hummingbirds instead of bees or vice versa.

By moving a small piece of the genome between two different species of the plants – the pink-flowered M. lewisii and the red-flowered M. cardinalis – the researchers created different colored flowers that attracted new pollinators.

“We discovered that moving this single genetic region caused a dramatic increase in visitation by a ‘new’ pollinator,” Schemske said. “Specifically, the orange flowers produced on the previously pink flowered and bee-pollinated M. lewisii were regularly visited by hummingbirds but shunned by bees.

“Also, the pink flowers of the previously hummingbird-pollinated M. cardinalis were attractive to both bees and hummingbirds,” he said.

Schemske and H.D. “Toby” Bradshaw, a professor of biology at the University of Washington and the lead author of the paper that appeared in Nature, said altering the genetic region responsible for the flowers’ color is much like what could happen during a naturally occurring mutation.

“Perhaps a single mutation having to do with color changed the pollinator milieu back when there was only a single species,” Bradshaw said. “That one big evolutionary step may then have been followed by many smaller steps triggered by pollinator preferences that led ultimately to different species.”

Schemske compared the process to the repairing of a finely tuned watch.

“In our model, the first adaptive adjustments might require big changes, similar to banging the broken watch a few times before making the final small tweaks to restore its optimal performance,” he said.

The plants used in the work were produced in a campus greenhouse and then transported to an area near the Yosemite National Park where natural populations of both species occur.

“This was a rather unique aspect of the work,” Schemske said, “in that it combined molecular genetic techniques and ecological observations to elucidate the process of adaptation in natural populations.”

The work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Tom Oswald | MSU
Further information:
http://newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/1701/content.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins
12.11.2018 | Technische Universität Berlin

nachricht How to produce fluorescent nanoparticles for medical applications in a nuclear reactor
09.11.2018 | Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IOCB Prague)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

Im Focus: Nanorobots propel through the eye

Scientists developed specially coated nanometer-sized vehicles that can be actively moved through dense tissue like the vitreous of the eye. So far, the transport of nano-vehicles has only been demonstrated in model systems or biological fluids, but not in real tissue. The work was published in the journal Science Advances and constitutes one step further towards nanorobots becoming minimally-invasive tools for precisely delivering medicine to where it is needed.

Researchers of the “Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems” Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, together with an international...

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

In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins

12.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Materials scientist creates fabric alternative to batteries for wearable devices

12.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

A two-atom quantum duet

12.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>