UF study: ‘Rules’ may govern genome evolution in young plant species

January 19th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new University of Florida study shows a hybrid plant species may experience rapid genome evolution in predictable patterns, meaning evolution repeats itself in populations of independent origin.

Researchers analyzed genes of a naturally occurring hybrid species, Tragopogon miscellus, and the study, published online today in Current Biology, suggests genome evolution in hybrid plants may follow a set of “rules” that determine which parental genes are lost. The research may be used to create higher and more stable yields in other hybrid polyploid plants, including agricultural crops such as wheat, corn, coffee and apples. (more…)

UF research on newly formed plants could lead to improved crop fertility

January 7th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new University of Florida study shows genomes of a recently formed plant species to be highly unstable, a phenomenon that may have far-reaching evolutionary consequences.

Published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the first to document chromosomal variation in natural populations of a recently formed plant species following whole genome doubling, or polyploidy. Because many agricultural crops are young polyploids, the data may be used to develop plants with higher fertility and yields. Polyploid crops include wheat, corn, coffee, apples, broccoli and some rice species.

“It could be occurring in other polyploids, but this sort of methodology just hasn’t been applied to many plant species,” said study co-author Pam Soltis, distinguished professor and curator of molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “So it may be that lots of polyploids – including our crops – may not be perfect additive combinations of the two parents, but instead have more chromosomes from one parent or the other.” (more…)

Florida Museum graduate student receives $13,500 NSF grant to study pitcher plants

June 13th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History graduate student Nicholas “Nic” Miles recently received a $13,500 National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant to study carnivorous pitcher plants.

Miles will study three pitcher plant families from Australia, Southeast Asia and the Americas to determine if leaves evolved from a flat to a tube-like structure the same way in all three.

“Pitchers are an amazing adaptation for plants, and their evolution is even more amazing because they evolved at three independent times during the history of plants,” said Miles, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in botany. (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. (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 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…)

UF study provides new insight into origin, evolution of flowering plants

December 13th, 2010

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Flowering plants have evolved at explosive rates throughout history, yet scientists since Charles Darwin have been faced with the great biological mystery of how they originated.

A new University of Florida study to be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents the deepest insight to the genes that made up the first flower, the common ancestor of all flowering plants, and how those genes have changed over time. (more…)

Florida Museum graduate student receives UF teaching award

August 30th, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History Ph. D. candidate Lucas Majure recently received the 2009-2010 University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award.

The University of Florida Graduate School offers the award to nominees across campus, and Majure is the only winner from the biological sciences of the 21 recipients for 2009-2010. He won the award for teaching BOT 2710/5725, Plant Taxonomy, which he has taught three times.

“The class covers all of the major vascular plant groups throughout the plant tree of life, and we teach the students how to identify them,” Majure said. “So if they were dropped off anywhere on the planet, they should be able to at least have a good idea of what major plant groups they encounter.” (more…)

DNA sequencing unlocks relationships among flowering plants

February 23rd, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The origins of flowering plants from peas to oak trees are now in clearer focus thanks to the efforts of Florida Museum of Natural History researchers.

A study appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences unravels 100 million years of evolution through an extensive analysis of plant genomes. It targets one of the major moments in plant evolution, when the ancestors of most of the world’s flowering plants split into two major groups.

Together the two groups make up nearly 70 percent of all flowering plants and are part of a larger clade known as Pentapetalae, which means five petals. Understanding how these plants are related is a large undertaking that could help ecologists better understand which species are more vulnerable to environmental factors such as climate change. (more…)

Fla. Museum adds 20,000th specimen to its genetic repository cryogenic freezer

December 7th, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently added specimen number 20,000 to its Genetic Resources Repository, a nitrogen-cooled freezer with a temperature of minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

The freezer at Dickinson Hall stores tissue samples and DNA preparations from physical specimens in the museum at extremely low temperatures to preserve the integrity of the samples for future research. During a brief ceremony marking the occasion Dec. 2, the temperature gauge read minus 308 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The Florida Museum has the world’s largest comprehensive collection of DNA and tissue samples,” said Pam Soltis, Florida Museum curator of molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics. “It’s unique because it includes specimens of invertebrate, vertebrate and plant species.” (more…)

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