Navigation Links
Small but speedy: Short plants live in the evolutionary fast lane

Durham, NC Biologists have known for a long time that some creatures evolve more quickly than others. Exactly why isn't well understood, particularly for plants. But it may be that height plays a role, says Robert Lanfear of Australian National University and the U. S. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center.

In a study to be published 21 May in the journal Nature Communications, Lanfear and colleagues report that shorter plants have faster-changing genomes.

Drawing from a database of global patterns in plant height for more than 20,000 species, the researchers estimated average maximum height for nearly 140 plant families worldwide ranging from a group of tropical plants called the Burmanniaceae, whose average height tops out at two inches (5 cm), to a family called the Tetramelaceae, which can tower above 140 feet (45 m).

For each family, the researchers also estimated how much their DNA sequences the strings of As, Cs, Ts and Gs that make up their genetic code changed over time.

When they plotted evolutionary rates against plant height, the researchers were surprised to find that shorter plants evolved as much as five times faster than taller ones.

The pattern held up for both the nuclear and the chloroplast genomes, even after the researchers accounted for factors shown in previous studies to correlate with evolutionary speed such as species richness, latitude, temperature, and levels of UV radiation. The results also held up when the researchers looked just within trees and shrubs, which are typically tall, or just herbs, which tend to be short.

What puts short plants in the evolutionary fast lane? The researchers suspect the difference may be driven by genetic changes that accumulate in the actively-dividing cells in the tip of the plant shoot as it grows. Cells don't copy their DNA perfectly each time they divide. In animals, most DNA copy mistakes that occur in the cells of the animal's body can't be inherited they're evolutionary dead ends. But this isn't the case for plants, where genetic changes in any part of the plant could potentially get passed on if those cells eventually form flowers or other reproductive organs

"Genetic changes that occur during cell division in plant shoots could potentially get passed on to future generations," Lanfear explained.

Importantly, growth slows as plants increase in size, he added. This means that over the long term, the rate of cell division and genome copying in taller plants eventually slows down, and changes in DNA the raw material for evolution accumulates less quickly.

"Our study also answers a question that was posed [in a paper] in Nature in 1986:" the researchers write. "Do plants evolve differently? The answer is 'yes.'"


Contact: Robert Lanfear
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)

Related biology news :

1. A surprising new function for small RNAs in evolution
2. Goosefish capture small puffins over deep water of Northwest Atlantic
3. Notre Dame researcher is studying role small dams play in pollution control
4. How our cells cope with toxic small molecules
5. Developing microbial cell factories by employing synthetic small regulatory RNAs
6. EGFR mutation not prognostic factor in non-small cell lung cancer
7. Small Animal Regional Anesthesia and Analgesia
8. Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery, (with DVD-ROM)
9. Small wasps to control a big pest?
10. Small changes in eating prompts weight loss
11. Small, portable sensors allow users to monitor exposure to pollution on their smart phones
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/9/2016)... control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint attendance control software, allowing ... are actually signing in, and to even control the opening of doors. ... ... ... Photo - ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... -- The Department of Transport Management (DOTM) of ... US Dollar project, for the , Supply and ... and IT Infrastructure , to Decatur ... of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous renowned international vendors participated in ... was selected for the most compliant and innovative solution. ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... IRVINE, Calif. , May 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care ... LMD3251MT  3D medical LCD display is the latest premium product recently added to ... ... ... Sony 3d Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... TOKYO , June 24, 2016  Regular discussions on ... to take place between the two entities said Poloz. ... in Ottawa , he pointed to the ... and the federal government. ... Poloz said, "Both institutions have common economic goals, why not ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 2016 , ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers and fluorometers use the ... models are higher end machines that use the more unconventional z-dimension of 20mm. ... the bottom of the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has developed several Agilent flow ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in clinical research ... Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio revisits the ... tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how patients receive ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   Boston ... of novel compounds designed to target cancer stemness ... has been granted Orphan Drug Designation from the ... treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) ... inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by ...
Breaking Biology Technology: