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The Week in Botany 36

February 26, 2018

Here's the next selection of popular stories from our Twitter followers this week. There was a surprise for me, this story from Massive Science on Plant Consciousness didn't make the list, despite me getting what seemed like regular pings for likes and retweets. I'll now track to see if tweets by @botanyone remove a story from our automated collection of tweets. In any case, I still found some interesting items that I'd missed before when compiling the links below.

From Botany One

Fungal parasites reduce lichen fitness
Higher parasite fitness correlated with lower host fitness, supporting the view that these associations are antagonistic.

Can Trees Track the Air that You Breathe?
A new paper in PLOS One says trees outside your house can act as sentinels tracking the concentrations of potentially hazardous chemicals in your home's air.

The autonomous flowering-time pathway pleiotropically regulates seed germination
Despite some degree of functional divergence between the regulation of flowering and germination by autonomous-pathway genes, the autonomous pathway is highly functionally conserved across life stages.

Sore diners, cycads and birds…
Nigel Chaffey continues his series on seed dispersal by animals.

Intra-specific facilitation promotes the recruitment of a desert shrub
Loayza et al. examined the role of conspecific plants and rocks as nurses of an endangered Atacama-Desert shrub, Myrcianthes coquimbensis (Myrtaceae).

Rock could aid humanity
Powdered rock could increase carbon sequestration on agricultural land.

RAD-seq and morphology clarify evolutionary relationships in Eurasian bee orchids
Bateman et al. combine next-generation DNA sequencing with morphological cladistic analysis to clarify phylogenetic structure and character evolution within the genus.

Island fragmentation and colonisation drove diversification of Aegean Nigella
Based on amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), Jaros et al. find population genetic evidence that an annual plant group from the mostly continental Aegean archipelago (Nigella spp., Ranunculaceae) diversified through both island fragmentation (vicariance) and colonisation (dispersal) processes at different times, from Early to Late Pleistocene.

Call for Papers: Special issue on the Ecology and Evolution of Plant Reproduction

Botanists have long been fascinated by the extraordinary diversity in flowering plant reproductive patterns and have sought to understand theecological processes and genetic mechanisms influencing plant mating. Over the last five years, research progress in this discipline has rapidly accelerated. Important new insights in this field often combine elegant theoretical models with innovative field and laboratory experiments. Annals of Botany will release a Special Issue on the Ecology and Evolution of Plant Reproduction in January 2019, and it will highlight papers from 3 symposia at the XIX International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China. See the full call for papers for more information.

News and Views

Land plants arose earlier than thought—and may have had a bigger impact on the evolution of animals
We have land plants to thank for the oxygen we breathe. And now we have a better idea of when they took to land in the first place. While the oldest known fossils of land plants are 420 million years old, researchers have now determined that pond scum first made landfall almost 100 million years earlier.

The United States’s Corn Belt is making its own weather
The Great Plains of the central United States—the Corn Belt—is home to some mysterious weather: Whereas the rest of the world has warmed, the region’s summer temperatures have dropped as much as a full degree Celsius, and rainfall has increased up to 35%, the largest spike anywhere in the world. 

Does GMO corn increase crop yields? 21 years of data confirm it does—and provides substantial health benefits
The analysis of over 6,000 peer-reviewed studies covering 21 years of data found that GMO corn increased yields up to 25 percent and dramatically decreased dangerous food contaminants.
Genetic Literacy Project

Plant Scientist Runs for Congress
Hallie Thompson is running to represent Missouri’s 4th District in Congress because it’s time to bring a fresh, pro-science perspective to our federal government.
Plant Science Today

In Our Time, Rosalind Franklin
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhapsbest remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA.
BBC Radio 4 (available worldwide)

Buds Ahoy
Roby Milling has produced a poster-sized gallery of common buds found on trees.
Roby Milling

Dr Peter Wilkie: Botanic Garden fighting to save the rainforest from the scorched earth of human activity
Recognised as a major provider of biodiversity expertise, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has been invited this month to join a workshop in Indonesia hosted by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
The Scotsman

'Would you burn the Mona Lisa if it was sent?': Our horror bureaucratic bungle
It’s a bungle that has floored botanists around the globe and embarrassed the Australian government. How did 105 priceless and irreplaceable historical plant specimens, sent here by the French, end up being destroyed by biosecurity officers?
The Sydney Morning Herald's 'Good Weekend' section

What does a pesticide taste like?
The notorious Gilles-Eric Seralini published a paper recently called “The Taste of Pesticides in Wines.” As a part of the study, people were asked to choose a preference between organic and conventional wines. Okay, fine. But then the participants were given glasses of water, some of which were spiked with pesticides at doses purportedly found in bottles of wine. This is bizarre on so many levels.
A Plant Out of Place

Strange World of Fleshy Nettle Fruits (Urticaceae)
Brightly coloured or fleshy fruit are not what you would associate with the nettles. Indeed neither would most botanists who study them in a herbarium where once brightly coloured intricately shaped structures are reduced to congealed dark brown blobs.
Tropical Botany

Call for papers: Developing sustainable bioenergy crops for future climates

Rapid progress has been made over the last five years with respect to emerging new genomic technologies for crop improvement and this Annals of Botany Special Issue will be devoted to highlighting the latest findings and considering the potential of these technologies for the future deployment of bioenergy crops in the face of climate change. At the same time, cutting-edge research that provides insights into the complex plant traits underpinning drought tolerance and response to other abiotic and biotic stresses is required for these relatively new crops. Knowledge in this area will be brought together in this Special Issue, and there will be a focus on recent advances in high throughput phenotyping to unravel these complex responses. See the full call for papers for more information.

Scientific Papers

Dominant integration locus drives continuous diversification of plant immune receptors with exogenous domain fusions
Bailey et al. show that plant immune receptors with integrated domains are distributed unevenly across their phylogeny in grasses. Using phylogenetic analysis, they uncover a major integration clade, whose members underwent repeated independent integration events producing diverse fusions.
Genome Biology

A new commelinid monocot seed fossil from the early Eocene previously identified as Solanaceae
Cantisolanum daturoides is likely a member of commelinid monocots and not Solanaceae as previously suggested.

The systemin receptor SYR1 enhances resistance of tomato against herbivorous insects
Wang et al. demonstrate that perception of systemin depends on a pair of distinct LRR-RKs termed SYR1 and SYR2. SYR1 acts as a genuine systemin receptor that binds systemin with high affinity and specificity. Further, they show that presence of SYR1, although not decisive for local and systemic wound responses, is important for defence against insect herbivory.
Nature Plants

The timescale of early land plant evolution
Morris et al. establish a timescale for early land plant evolution that integrates over competing hypotheses on bryophyte−tracheophyte relationships. We estimate land plants to have emerged in a middle Cambrian–Early Ordovocian interval, and vascular plants to have emerged in the Late Ordovician−Silurian. 

Design of synthetic bacterial communities for predictable plant phenotypes
Herrera Paredes et al. describe a new method to design and predict bacterial communities that alter the plant host response to phosphate starvation. The method uses plant–bacterium binary-association assays to define groups of bacteria that elicit similar effects on the host plant.
PLOS Biology

Cell density and airspace patterning in the leaf can be manipulated to increase leaf photosynthetic capacity
Lehmeier et al. investigate the relationship of cell size and patterning, airspace and photosynthesis by promoting and repressing the expression of cell cycle genes in the leaf mesophyll.
The Plant Journal

Latitudinal patterns of herbivore pressure in a temperate herb support the biotic interactions hypothesis
Baskett and Schemske quantified herbivory and defence of young and mature leaves along a continental gradient in eastern North America in the native herb Phytolacca americana L. Herbivory in the field declined with latitude and was strongly correlated with lepidopteran abundance.
Ecology Letters

The Auxin-Regulated CrRLK1L Kinase ERULUS Controls Cell Wall Composition during Root Hair Tip Growth
Schoenaers et al. describe the characterization of ERULUS (ERU), an auxin-induced Arabidopsis receptor-like kinase, whose expression is directly regulated by ARF7 and ARF19 transcription factors.
Current Biology

Testing the plant pneumatic method to estimate xylem embolism resistance in stems of temperate trees
Methods to estimate xylem embolism resistance generally rely on hydraulic measurements, which can be far from straightforward. Recently, a pneumatic method based on air flow measurements of terminal branch ends was proposed to construct vulnerability curves by linking the amount of air extracted from a branch with the degree of embolism. ​
Tree Physiology

Proliferation of regulatory DNA elements derived from transposable elements in the maize genome
Genomic regions free of nucleosomes are hypersensitive to DNase I digestion. These genomic regions are known as DNase I hypersensitive sites (DHSs) and frequently contain cis-regulatory DNA elements. Zhao et al. developed high-resolution genome-wide DHS maps in maize using a modified DNase-seq technique. Maize DHSs exhibit depletion of nucleosomes and low levels of DNA methylation, and are enriched with conserved non-coding sequences (CNSs).​
Plant Physiology


Next week and onwards

Next week I'll be reading 10 top writing tips and the psychology behind them. It has tips like Cite numbers effectively. It's important because 83% of statistics on the internet are either made-up or irrelevant to the text they accompany.



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