Navigation Links
World's largest flower evolved from family of much tinier blooms

The plant with the world's largest flower -- typically a full meter across, with a bud the size of a basketball -- evolved from a family of plants whose blossoms are nearly all tiny, botanists write this week in the journal Science. Their genetic analysis of rafflesia reveals that it is closely related to a family that includes poinsettias, the trees that produce natural rubber, castor oil plants, and the tropical root crop cassava.

The team from Harvard University, Southern Illinois University, the Smithsonian Institution, and the University of Wisconsin was led by Harvard's Charles C. Davis.

"For nearly 200 years rafflesia's lineage has confounded plant scientists," says Davis, an assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "As a parasite living inside the tissue of a tropical vine, the plant lacks leaves, shoots, or roots, making it difficult to compare to more conventional plants. Most efforts to place plants in the botanical tree of life in the past 25 years have tracked ancestry using molecular markers in genes governing photosynthesis. Rafflesia is a non-photosynthetic parasite, and those genes have apparently been abandoned, meaning that to determine its lineage we had to look at other parts of the plant's genome."

Davis and his colleagues determined that over an estimated 46 million years, rafflesia's blooms, which now weigh up to 15 lbs., evolved at an accelerated pace. However, after increasing in size by a factor of roughly 79, the plant then reverted to a more sedate evolutionary pace.

This evolutionary spurt is one of the most dramatic size changes ever reported among eukaryotes; if humans were to undergo comparable evolutionary growth, Davis says, an average man would end up some 146 meters tall, roughly the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Because rafflesia lacks the genes most commonly used to trace plant ancestry, the scientists delved deeper in to the genome, looking at some 11,500 base pairs of DNA to determine that the giant flower's closest relatives are in the Euphorbiaceae family, many of which have blossoms just a few millimeters in diameter.

"The power of nucleic acid comparisons is revealed as well as ever in this stunning deduction," says noted botanist Peter H. Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, who was not involved in this research. "The massive increase in flower size is one of the most significant among living organisms, and could never have been deduced by conventional methods."

Found growing on the jungle floor in parts of southeastern Asia, rafflesia is unusual in more than just its flower's size. A parasite, it derives its nutrients from a plant in the grapevine family and lacks leaves, stems, or roots. Even more shocking is the plant's carcass-like appearance: Its blooms are a mottled blood red, reek of decaying flesh, and in some cases even emit heat, much like a recently killed animal. These traits help the flower attract the carrion flies that pollinate it.

"While it's surprising to find this giant plant evolved from a family typified by much smaller blossoms, rafflesia is unusual enough that it's frankly been difficult to imagine it fitting neatly into any plant family," Davis says. "Many botanists had refused to even speculate on where this botanical outlier might fit into the tree of life."

Rafflesia was first discovered in the Sumatran rain forest some 180 years ago by Sir Stamford Raffles, governor of the East India Company's establishments in Sumatra, and Joseph Arnold, a naturalist and physician. Shortly before Arnold died of malaria on that same expedition, he described rafflesia as "the greatest prodigy of the vegetable world," adding, "To tell you the truth, had I been alone, and had there been no witnesses, I should think I would have been fearful of mentioning the dimensions of this flower, so much does it exc eed every flower I have ever seen or heard of."


Source:Harvard University

Related biology news :

1. Worlds largest rainforest drying experiment completes first phase
2. A New Era of Hope for the Worlds Most Neglected Diseases
3. Worlds pledge to halve hunger by 2015 looks like empty promise
4. Worlds smallest cancer detection device
5. Worlds leading scientists announce creation of Encyclopedia of Life
6. Scientists discover unique microbe in Californias largest lake
7. Butterfly migration could be largest known
8. UNC scientists solve mystery of how largest cellular motor protein powers movement
9. NASA snow data helps maintain nations largest, oldest bison herd
10. The evolutionary triumph of flower power
11. Bumblebees copy one another when contending with unfamiliar flowers
Post Your Comments:

(Date:10/23/2015)... DUBLIN , Oct. 23, 2015 Research ... of the "Global Voice Recognition Biometrics Market 2015-2019" ... --> --> The global voice recognition ... during 2014-2019. --> ... 2015-2019, has been prepared based on an in-depth market ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a leading supplier of biometrics software ... September 30, 2015.  --> --> ... a decrease of 33% compared to $6.0 million in the same ... was $2.2 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, which compared to ... a year ago.  --> --> ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... , Oct. 22, 2015 About fingerprint ... fingerprint scan of an individual with the database to ... as arch, whorl, and loop. Pattern-based algorithms are used ... advances in technology, AFIS was introduced in 1986, which ... agencies to identify a criminal. Technavio,s analysts ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... , November 27, 2015 ... Growing popularity of companion diagnostics is ... cancer biomarkers market with pharmaceutical companies and ... companion diagnostic tests. . ... Complete report on global cancer biomarkers ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 25, 2015 2 ... première fois les différences entre les souches bactériennes ... celles des êtres humains . Ces recherches ... et envisager la prise en charge efficace de ... diagnostiqués chez les chats .    --> ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... IN (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... (AMA) and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with ... and other AMA team leaders met with OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... The United ... recipient of the 2016 USGA Green Section Award. Presented annually since 1961, the USGA ... his or her work with turfgrass. , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: