Navigation Links
Ferns took to the trees and thrived
Date:7/2/2009

DURHAM, N.C. -- As flowering plants like giant trees quickly rose to dominate plant communities during the Cretaceous period, the ferns that had preceded them hardly saw it as a disappointment.

In fact, they flourished. While modern tropical rain forests were becoming established, ferns climbed aboard, and experienced a flowering of their own species diversity.

"The canopy is there and -- boom -- diversification," said Duke University researcher Eric Schuettpelz, who is completing a post-doctoral fellowship in biology with associate professor Kathleen Pryer.

By integrating genomic data from 400 living fern species with information from the fossil record, Schuettpelz and Pryer constructed a new time-calibrated family tree for ferns. Their study appears on the cover of the July 7 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Though ancient, it appears that ferns really came into their own during a very hot, very wet period that peaked about 10 million years after the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary 65 million years ago.

Two key innovations may have led to the ferns' success in the face of the new competition from flowering plants, Schuettpelz said. Some ferns developed the ability to make a living on light that was more toward the red end of spectrum -- shade, in other words. And, around this time, some ferns also developed the ability to live on trees, sometimes without soil, as epiphytes.

By storing water, developing thicker skin, or being more tolerant to drying out, the epiphytic ferns could now perch on a trunk, limb, or twig and live quite happily more than 100 feet off the forest floor, where moisture, temperature, and sunlight are very different indeed.

Whereas the fossil record seemed to suggest that ferns experienced three distinct pulses of species diversification, the Duke team's analysis shows that there was a fourth, roughly corresponding with the development of epiphytism.

So, as rain forests developed and tropical trees and vines clawed past each other to reach heavenward, they took the ferns up along with them. Thousands of new fern species evolved to take advantage of all the new niches being created in the canopy.

"In some ways I guess, the epiphytes escaped the battle on the ground," Schuettpelz said.

Today, epiphytes comprise about 30 percent of the more than 9,000 living fern species. But this isn't the only plant group that includes epiphytes. This fall, as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), Schuettpelz will begin to look for parallel patterns of diversification in epiphytic flowering plants like bromeliads and orchids.


'/>"/>

Contact: Karl Leif Bates
karl.bates@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. When palm trees gave way to spruce trees
2. Australias climate: Drought and flooding in annual rings of tropical trees
3. Plastic that grows on trees, part two
4. Study finds hemlock trees dying rapidly, affecting forest carbon cycle
5. California study shows shade trees reduce summertime electricity use
6. Organic plant waste proves effective weed control for citrus trees
7. Trees wont stop tsunamis, scientists warn
8. Flame retardants prove ineffective on fresh-cut Christmas trees
9. Flame retardants prove ineffective on fresh-cut Christmas trees
10. Forest inventories in California include more than trees
11. Forest inventories in Oregon include more than trees
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 5, 2017  The Allen Institute for ... Cell Explorer: a one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic digital window ... imaging data, the first application of deep learning to ... stem cell lines and a growing suite of powerful ... for these and future publicly available resources created and ...
(Date:4/4/2017)... , April 4, 2017   EyeLock LLC , ... that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ... covers the linking of an iris image with a ... and represents the company,s 45 th issued patent. ... is very timely given the multi-modal biometric capabilities that ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... The research team of The Hong Kong ... identification by adopting ground breaking 3D fingerprint minutiae recovery and matching ... and accuracy for use in identification, crime investigation, immigration control, security ... ... A research team led by ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... The award-winning American Farmer television ... quarter 2018. American Farmer airs Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global ... the challenge of how to continue to feed a growing nation. At the same ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... Antonio, Texas (PRWEB) , ... ... ... new study published on October 5, 2017, in the medical journal, Epilepsia, ... equivalence with the gold standard, video EEG, in detecting generalized tonic-clonic seizures ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... WALTHAM, Mass. , Oct. 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... pioneering work of three scientists, Jacques Dubochet, ... whose breakthrough developments in cryo-electron microscopy ... this technology within the structural biology community. The ... Scientific. Scientists can now routinely produce highly resolved, ...
(Date:10/5/2017)... ... October 05, 2017 , ... LabRoots , the leading provider of educational ... is giving back to cancer research with a month-long promotion supporting the advancement of ... 31, shoppers can use promo code PinkRibbon to get 10 percent off their purchase ...
Breaking Biology Technology: