Navigation Links
Study rewrites the evolutionary history of C4 grasses
Date:11/16/2010

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. According to a popular hypothesis, grasses such as maize, sugar cane, millet and sorghum got their evolutionary start as a result of a steep drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the Oligocene epoch, more than 23 million years ago. A new study overturns that hypothesis, presenting the first geological evidence that the ancestors of these and other C4 grasses emerged millions of years earlier than previously established.

The findings are published in the journal Geology.

C4 plants are more efficient than C3 plants at taking up atmospheric carbon dioxide and converting it into the starches and sugars vital to plant growth. (C3 and C4 refer to the number of carbon atoms in the first molecular product of photosynthesis.) Having evolved relatively recently, C4 plants make up 3 percent of all living species of flowering plants. But they account for about 25 percent of global plant productivity on land. They dominate grasslands in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate areas. They also are a vital food source and an important feedstock for the production of biofuels.

"C4 plants are very successful, they're economically very important, but we actually don't know when they originated in the geological history," said University of Illinois plant biology professor Feng Sheng Hu, who led the new analysis. "To me, it's one of the most profound geological and ecological questions as a paleoecologist I can tackle."

A previous study dated the oldest C4 plant remnant found, a tiny fragment called a phytolith, to about 19 million years ago. Other studies analyzed the ratios of carbon isotopes in bulk soil samples to determine the ratio of C3 to C4 plant remains at different soil horizons, which correspond to different geological time periods. (C3 and C4 plants differ in their proportions of two carbon isotopes, C-12 and C-13.) Those studies indicated that C4 grasses were present as early as the Early Micocene, about 18 million years ago.

Rather than analyzing plant matter in bulk sediment samples, David Nelson, a postdoctoral researcher in Hu's lab at the time of the study (now a professor at the University of Maryland), analyzed the carbon isotope ratios of individual grains of grass pollen, a technique he pioneered while working with Hu in the lab of biogeochemistry professor Ann Pearson at Harvard University.

Using a spooling-wire micro-combustion device to combust the grains, and an isotope mass spectrometer to determine the relative ratio of C-12 and C-13 in the sample, Nelson and Illinois graduate student Michael Urban analyzed hundreds of individual grains of grass pollen collected from study sites in Spain and France.

"Because we analyze carbon isotopes in a material unique to grasses (pollen) we were able to detect C4 grasses at lower abundances than previous studies," Nelson said.

This analysis found "unequivocal evidence for C4 grasses in southwestern Europe by the Early Oligocene," the authors wrote. This means these grasses were present 32 to 34 million years ago, well before studies indicate atmospheric carbon dioxide levels made their precipitous decline.

"The evidence refutes the idea that low (atmospheric) CO2 was an important driver and/or precondition for the development of C4 photosynthesis," the authors wrote.

"This study challenges that hypothesis and basically says that something else was responsible for the evolution of C4 plants, probably higher temperature or drier conditions," Hu said. With atmospheric carbon dioxide levels now on the increase, he said, "there are also implications about how C3 and C4 plants will fare in the future."


'/>"/>

Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Long-term study shows effect of climate change on animal diversity
2. £2 million study to reveal workings of dementia genes
3. New study looks to define evangelicals and how they affect polling
4. CU-Boulder study suggests air quality regulations miss key pollutants
5. Researchers study acoustic communication in deep-sea fish
6. Study reveals homeowner perceptions in fire-prone areas
7. Researchers study how pistachios may improve heart health
8. Study: urban black bears live fast, die young
9. New study indicates link between weight gains during pregnancy and dieting history
10. Study reveals specific gene in adolescent men with delinquent peers
11. Sweat it out: UH study examines ability of sweat patches to monitor bone loss
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Study rewrites the evolutionary history of C4 grasses
(Date:4/3/2017)... 3, 2017  Data captured by IsoCode, ... detected a statistically significant association between the ... treatment and objective response of cancer patients ... predict whether cancer patients will respond to ... well as to improve both pre-infusion potency testing ...
(Date:3/29/2017)...  higi, the health IT company that operates the ... , today announced a Series B investment from ... The new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s strategy to ... population health activities through the collection and workflow integration ... collects and secures data today on behalf of over ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition of ... - Industry Forecast to 2025" report to their offering. ... The Global Biometric Vehicle ... around 15.1% over the next decade to reach approximately $1,580 million ... estimates and forecasts for all the given segments on global as ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/25/2017)... , April 25, 2017 ... has licensed its novel immune-modulating technology to an undisclosed ... and allergy. Tregitopes, pronounced T·rej·itopes, are ... immunoglobulin by EpiVax CEO Annie De Groot ... intravenous immunoglobulin G, an autoimmune disease therapy, Tregitopes ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... ... 24, 2017 , ... It is well established that ligand ... broad application of this cellular target engagement concept to drug discovery has been ... stabilization assays are valuable methods for particular applications, but they can require target-specific ...
(Date:4/21/2017)... ... 2017 , ... The University of Connecticut, in partnership with ... startups through the UConn Innovation Fund. The $1.5 million UConn Innovation Fund was ... , The UConn Innovation Fund provides investments of up to $100,000 to companies ...
(Date:4/21/2017)... ... April 21, 2017 , ... Frederick Innovative ... range of emerging technology-based businesses, recently earned a $77,518 grant from the Rural ... Founded in 2004, FITCI is Frederick’s first incubator. A non-profit corporation, FITCI is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: