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Serpentine ecosystems shed light on the nature of plant adaptation and speciation
Date:3/10/2014

s: neoendemics are species that have formed relatively recently via nearby progenitor taxa, and paleoendemics are species that formed following habitat-specific population extirpation. Kruckeberg viewed serpentine ecotypes as representing the first step along the path of paleoendemism. While this stimulated much research in this area, Anacker points out that several serpentine endemics appear to have arisen from nearby progenitor taxa, and thus the neoendemic pathway is also likely important.

Interestingly, Kruckeberg's experiments also showed that many serpentine ecotypes actually performed better on the non-serpentine soils than on serpentine soils, which begs the question of why serpentine-adapted plants are not also found on non-serpentine soils. Anacker points out that Kruckeberg was one of the first to indicate that competition may play a key role in serpentine specialization. He also highlights recent research indicating that serpentine species are typically slow-growing stress tolerators rather than fast-growing competitive dominants, and their adaptations for being more drought-tolerant puts them at a disadvantage in soils where water and nutrients are not limiting.

While serpentine ecosystems are special and unique environments, Kruckeberg and subsequent researchers have shown how important these systems are for shedding light on broader aspects of plant ecology and evolution.


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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

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