Navigation Links
Stress and trade-offs explain life's diversity: New Smithsonian model

Plants and people alike face critical choices as they reproduce: to make a few big, well-provisioned seedsor babies--or many small, poorly-provisioned ones. Different species make strikingly different choices, resulting in a great diversity of life forms: Darwin's "endless forms most beautiful.

Helene Muller-Landau, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute argues that these diverse strategies coexist because different levels of stress favor different choices.

"I love to figure out the reasons behind patterns I see in the forest," said Muller-Landau, who, as head of the HSBC Climate Partnership's effort to quantify carbon in forests worldwide, has traveled to forests in China, Malaysia, Ecuador, Panama and beyond. "The mathematical model I've developed explains why different plant species have different size seeds, and may also provide insight into the variation in offspring size and provisioning among animal species."

Coconut palms produce enormous seeds while figs produce tiny seeds. Muller-Landau wasn't happy with the textbook explanation that a tradeoff between competitive ability and seed arrival at a site accounts for this range of seed sizes: "The standard explanation is that big seeds beat out small seeds everywhere that the big seeds arrivebut that just isn't always the case," she explains. "Big seeds don't necessarily do any better than small seeds when conditions are good. Where big seeds really have the advantage is in stressful conditions like shade or drought small seeds often can't make it at all at stressful sites. In contrast, small-seeded species have an advantage at favorable sites, just because they've got more seeds in the game."

"This simple, elegant theory, so well grounded in sound natural history, reminds me of the glory days of Robert MacArthur. It is a considerable advance in our understanding of the contrast between fugitive ("r") and equilibrium ("K") species and how they coexist," said Egbert Leigh, Smithsonian staff scientist.

Muller-Landau will speak in Panama on March 1 at Taking Stock, a conference sponsored by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Center for Tropical Forest Science and Earthwatch as part of the HSBC Climate Partnership. The conference will highlight the role that citizen scientists play in the partnership in gathering vast quantities of tree growth data from more than 30, independent forest dynamics monitoring plots in 25 countries, worldwide---data needed to answer questions about climate change and to address very basic biological questions that are essential to understanding life on earth.

Her "tolerance-fecundity" model, will be presented in the Early Online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of February 15, Financial support from the HSBC Climate Partnership, a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, the University of Minnesota and the U.S. National Science Foundation made this work possible.


Contact: Beth King
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Related biology news :

1. High sensitivity to stress isnt always bad for children
2. Stress peptide and receptor may have role in diabetes
3. Post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed with magnetism
4. A new method to measure childhood stress
5. Ford and MIT Team Up To Improve Safety by Reducing Driver Stress
6. Studying hair of ancient Peruvians answers questions about stress
7. Seeing family for the holidays? Scientists discover how the stress might kill you
8. The benefits of stress ... in plants
9. New evidence that dark chocolate helps ease emotional stress
10. Prolonged stress sparks ER to release calcium stores and induce cell death in aging-related diseases
11. New method monitors early sign of oxidative stress in cancer
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Stress and trade-offs explain life's diversity: New Smithsonian model
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , ... entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce ... Tech Association (MHTA) as one of only three finalists ... "Software – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... have shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Daon, a global ... it has released a new version of its ... North America have already installed ... also includes a FIDO UAF certified server component ... preparing to activate FIDO features. These customers include some ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... -- Connected health pioneer, Joseph C. Kvedar , MD, ... and wellness, and the business opportunities that arise from ... of Healthy Things . Long before health and ... Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, was creating ... from the hospital or doctor,s office into the day-to-day ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... the request of IIROC on behalf of the Toronto ... this news release there are no corporate developments that ... price. --> --> ... --> . --> Aeterna Zentaris ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software ... events in five states to develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health ... state are competing for votes to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , November 24, 2015 ... recent market research report released by Transparency Market Research, ... expand at a CAGR of 17.5% during the period ... Testing Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Volume, Share, ... global non-invasive prenatal testing market to reach a valuation ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... SAN FRANCISCO , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... today announced that Emily Leproust, Ph.D., Twist Bioscience ... Piper Jaffray Healthcare Conference on December 1, 2015 ... Palace Hotel in New York City. ... . Twist Bioscience is on ...
Breaking Biology Technology: