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New research changes understanding of C4 plant evolution
Date:11/15/2010

te increasing global carbon dioxide levels.

The team used an innovative technique pioneered by Dr. Nelson earlier in his career - the Single Pollen Isotope Ratio Analysis or SPIRAL to analyze the samples. The scientists first extracted grains of grass pollen from sedimentary rocks using a micromanipulator; then analyzed the tiny samples using a microcombustion device interfaced with an isotope ratio mass spectrometer in Ann Pearson's laboratory at Harvard University, which houses one of only a handful of these devices in the world. Through this analysis, they were able to detect the signature of C4 species from their more common C3 counterparts, because C4 and C3 plants take up different ratios of carbon isotopes during photosynthesis.

"SPIRAL enables us to detect C4 grasses at much lower abundances in geological records than previous approaches, which is helping to revolutionize our ability to study their ecology and evolution," said Dr. Hu. University of Illinois graduate student Michael Urban, lead author of the paper, continues to analyze samples from other parts of the world to look at variation in C4-grass abundance in relation to past changes in atmospheric CO2 and climate.


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Contact: Christopher Conner
cconner@umces.edu
443-496-0095
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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