UF researchers help pinpoint key events in ancient plant evolution

April 10th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers from the University of Florida and six other institutions have unlocked some of the key foundations for the evolution of seed and flowering plants.

The study, to be published online Sunday in Nature, is the first to identify the occurrence of ancient genome duplication events and show the genomes of seed and flowering plants duplicated before each group of plants diversified. It introduces new factors for further molecular research on the organisms humans depend on for food, clothing and shelter. (more…)

UF researchers help pinpoint key events in ancient plant evolution

April 10th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers from the University of Florida and six other institutions have unlocked some of the key foundations for the evolution of seed and flowering plants.

The study, to be published online Sunday in Nature, is the first to identify the occurrence of ancient genome duplication events and show the genomes of seed and flowering plants duplicated before each group of plants diversified. It introduces new factors for further molecular research on the organisms humans depend on for food, clothing and shelter.

Analyses of several hundred genes pinpointed ancient genome duplication events at about 319 million years ago for seed plants and 192 million years ago for flowering plants, making their origins older than previously estimated. Genome duplications result in organisms having twice as much DNA and an extra copy of every gene, allowing for greater genetic variation. For flowering plants, this event is now linked to their rise to success and the more than 300,000 flowering plant species alive today. (more…)

UF study names new genus of 125-million-year-old eudicot from China

March 30th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida researcher has helped describe the earliest known fossil remains of a flowering plant from China that has a direct evolutionary relationship with most plants humans depend on today.

The study, scheduled to appear as the cover story in the March 31 issue of the journal Nature, describes the basal eudicot species, Leefructus mirus, which lived during the early Cretaceous period about 125 million years ago. It is most closely related to living plants in the buttercup family. Eudicots, known as “typical dicots,” are one of the largest groups of flowering plants. (more…)

UF researcher: Flowering plant study ‘catches evolution in the act’

March 17th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new University of Florida study shows when two flowering plants are crossed to produce a new hybrid, the new species’ genes are reset, allowing for greater genetic variation.

Researchers say the study, to be published March 17 in Current Biology, could lead to a better understanding of how to best grow more stable and higher yielding agricultural crops.

“We caught evolution in the act,” said Doug Soltis, a distinguished professor in UF’s biology department and study co-author. “New and diverse patterns of gene expression may allow the new species to rapidly adapt in new environments.” (more…)

New UF study shows some sharks follow ‘mental map’ to navigate seas

March 9th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new study led by a University of Florida researcher uses tracking data of three shark species to provide the first evidence some of the fish swim directly to targeted locations.

Researchers found tiger and thresher sharks showed the ability to orient at large distances, with tiger sharks swimming in direct paths at least 4 miles away and reaching specific resource areas about 30 miles away, said lead author Yannis Papastamatiou, a marine biologist in the division of ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. (more…)

UF researchers begin mission Friday to study Gulf of Mexico biodiversity

March 3rd, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A group of 23 researchers led by University of Florida scientist Gustav Paulay will leave from St. Petersburg Friday on an expedition to survey the biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico’s ocean floor.

Funded by BP through the Florida Institute of Oceanography, the scientists will make the 10-day trip aboard the institute’s 115-foot research vessel. The divers, scientists and photographers will document hard bottoms of Florida, from the Keys to the Panhandle, to gain a better understanding of these sponge- and coral-dominated communities. (more…)

UF Pine lsland pollen study leads to revision of state’s ancient geography

March 2nd, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new University of Florida study of 45-million-year-old pollen from Pine Island west of Fort Myers has led to a new understanding of the state’s geologic history, showing Florida could be 10 million to 15 million years older than previously believed.

The discovery of land in Florida during the early Eocene opens the possibility for researchers to explore the existence of land animals at that time, including their adaptation, evolution and dispersal until the present.

Florida Museum of Natural History vertebrate paleontologist Jonathan Bloch, who was not involved in the current study, said he is especially interested in the finding and future related research. (more…)

UF study traces global red imported fire ant invasions to southern U.S.

February 24th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Red imported fire ant invasions around the globe in recent years can now be traced to the southern U.S., where the nuisance insect gained a foothold in the 1930s, new University of Florida research has found.

Native to South America, the ant had been contained there and in the southeastern U.S. before turning up in faraway places in the last 20 years – including California, China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

The study in Friday’s edition of Science was co-authored by Marina Ascunce, a postdoctoral associate with the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and Chin-Cheng Yang of National Taiwan University. (more…)

UF students launch Panama Canal international research, education website

February 8th, 2011

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida students recently launched a website to support the Florida Museum of Natural History’s $3.8 million NSF-funded Partnerships in International Research Education grant and Panama Canal project.

The site, www.flmnh.ufl.edu/panama-pire/ allows researchers and students to share new findings, and serves as an outreach and collaboration outlet for the project, which involves collecting and studying fossils from deposits excavated during the Panama Canal expansion. (more…)

Shark attacks increase worldwide; Florida continues four-year decline

February 7th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The number of reported shark attacks last year increased worldwide, but declined in Florida, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File annual report released today.

Ichthyologist George Burgess, director of the file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, said Florida typically has the highest number of attacks worldwide, but 2010 marked the state’s fourth straight year of decline. Florida led the U.S. with 13 reported attacks, but the total was significantly lower than the yearly average of 23 over the past decade.

“Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12,” Burgess said. “Maybe it’s a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach.” (more…)

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