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The Week in Botany 30

January 15, 2018

We're getting closer to normal here, after a difficult start to January. As always, the picks here are from the people following the @botanyone on Twitter. It's been useful for me this week as there are definitely a few stories that I would have otherwise missed. In particular, thanks to everyone who shared the Talking Biotech podcast this week. I'm catching up on it as I type this.

From Botany One

Meet the real fungi…
Nigel Chaffey reviews A Very Short Introduction to Fungi.

The evolution and ecology of plant architecture
Ecological factors affect the distribution of plant architectural diversity and shape its evolution, and future work integrating phylogenetically informed architectural data with ecological variables will continue to unveil how plant architecture is shaped at a global scale.

Crop-wild introgression alters genetic structure of wild rice populations
In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Jin et al. found gene introgression from cultivated rice to its in situ conserved wild relative populations, which has considerably altered their genetic structure and relationship.

Phytopathological future for plasma
The fight against pathogens in plants is moving to less familiar states of matter.

Codon usage in non-grass monocots
Codon usage patterns reflect lineage and the genome composition of a species. Mazumdar et al. investigated the differences between grass and non-grass monocots.

The Urban Forests Cleaning Beijing
The Chinese Tulip Tree might be thought of as purely ornamental, but new research finds it might help Beijing clean up its notorious smogs.

Carbohydrate metabolism and androdioecy maintenance in Tapiscia sinensis
Fruit ripening overlaps with flowering, leading to a severe reproductive burden on the hermaphroditic individuals.

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

2 St. Louis plant scientists use podcast to dig deep into the struggles of research
Researchers Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter spend most their time trying to understand how plants function. But the two plant scientists sometimes step away from their microscopes and specimens to have honest conversations with their colleagues about the challenges of doing research. They recorded these dialogues into a podcast called Taproot, to represent how they’re digging for stories beyond what’s in a scientific publication
St Louis Public Radio

Plant Illustrations
The aim of this profile is to collect in one place illustrations and pictures of plants, roots, shoots, inflorescences, ... The ultimate goal is to be a resource for the plant science community.

Peering down, into the future
Just weeks after the 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for their work developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution, we have taken delivery of a cryo-EM FEI Talos F200C microscope.
John Innes Centre

Fossil evidence reveals butterflies and moths lived 50m years earlier than thought
The diaphanous, ridged golden-brown wing scales throw up another mystery. Some of the moths show signs of a proboscis, the protrusion scientists have long believed evolved alongside flowering plants to allow them the reach the nectar. The researchers now hypothesise that the proboscis was originally used to suck up tiny amounts of sticky sap which the plants produced to trap pollen, until flowering plants evolved tens of millions of years later.
The Guardian

Flower Visitors vs. Pollinators: no evidence that honey bees are the most important pollinator worldwide
In a nutshell: it’s ecologically impossible for a single species of insect to be ‘the most important pollinator’ worldwide, in all climates, all ecosystems, and for all plant species.
Ecology is Not a Dirty Word

Rafflesia in 3D at Oxford Botanic Garden
When it comes to the topic of natural history, people often think of plants as a little dull and inanimate compared with, say, animals on the Serengeti. This can be a challenging barrier for scientists to overcome in engaging people with plant science research.
Thinking 3D

With ‘Downsized’ DNA, Flowering Plants Took Over the World
Compact genomes and tiny cells gave flowering plants an edge over competing flora. This discovery hints at a broader evolutionary principle.
Quanta Magazine

How flowering plants conquered the world
Scientists think they have the answer to a puzzle that baffled even Charles Darwin: How flowers evolved and spread to become the dominant plants on Earth.

Haskap Berries; A Lifetime in Plant Breeding
Dr. Maxine Thompson is a trailblazer.  With her education and profound interest in plant breeding, she defied a male-dominated establishment and became a plant breeder at a major university. 
Talking Biotech Podcast

Tea if by sea, cha if by land: Why the world only has two words for tea
With a few minor exceptions, there are really only two ways to say “tea” in the world. One is like the English term— in Spanish and tee in Afrikaans are two examples. The other is some variation of cha, like chay in Hindi.

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

Reversible colour change in leaves enhances pollinator attraction and reproductive success in Saururus chinensis (Saururaceae)
The reversible leaf colour change in S. chinensis appears to be adaptive because it enhances pollination success during flowering, with a small photosynthetic cost, while re-greening of these leaves after flowering helps to meet the carbon requirements for seed development.
Annals of Botany

Convergent evolution of floral shape tied to pollinator shifts in Iochrominae (Solanaceae)
We use morphometric approaches to quantify shape variation across the Andean clade Iochrominae and estimate the relationship between changes in shape and shifts in pollination system using phylogenetic comparative methods. We infer multiple shifts from an ancestral state of narrow, tubular flowers toward open, bowl-shaped, or campanulate flowers as well as one reversal to the tubular form. These transitions in flower shape are significantly correlated with changes in pollination system. 

Observing the Cell in Its Native State: Imaging Subcellular Dynamics in Multicellular Organisms
We combined lattice light sheet microscopy with two-channel adaptive optics to achieve, across large multicellular volumes, noninvasive aberration-free imaging of subcellular processes, including endocytosis, organelle remodeling during mitosis, and the migration of axons, immune cells, and metastatic cancer cells in vivo. The technology reveals the phenotypic diversity within cells across different organisms and developmental stages, and may offer insights into how cells harness their intrinsic variability to adapt to different physiological environments.

Plant evolution: landmarks on the path to terrestrial life
We discuss recent progress and problems in inferring the biology of the algal progenitor of the terrestrial photosynthetic macrobiome.
New Phytologist

Growth is required for perception of water availability to pattern root branches in plants
Plant roots activate lateral branching in response to contact with available water, but the mechanism by which this environmental signal is perceived is poorly understood. Through a combination of empirical and mathematical-modeling approaches we discovered a central role of tissue growth in this process. Growth causes water uptake, and the biophysical changes that occur during this process are interpreted by the organism to position new lateral branches. This observation is a significant advancement in our understanding of how the environment shapes plant development and demonstrates that perception of water is intimately tied to a core biological function of the root.

Far-red Light Detection in the Shoot Regulates Lateral Root Development through the HY5 Transcription Factor
Plants in dense vegetation compete for resources and detect competitors through reflection of far-red (FR) light from surrounding plants. This reflection causes a reduced red(R):FR ratio, which is sensed through phytochromes. Low R:FR induces shade avoidance responses of the shoot and also changes the root system architecture, although this has received little attention so far. Here we investigate the molecular mechanisms through which light detection in the shoot regulates root development in Arabidopsis thaliana. We do so using a combination of microscopy, gene expression, and mutant study approaches in a setup that allows root imaging without exposing the roots to light treatment. We show that low R:FR perception in the shoot decreases the lateral root (LR) density by inhibiting LR emergence.
The Plant Cell

C4 photosynthesis evolved in warm climates but promoted migration to cooler ones
We use large grass phylogenetic and geographical distribution data sets to test whether (1) temperature influences the rate of C4 origins, (2) photosynthetic types affect the rate of migration among climatic zones, and (3) C4 evolution changes the breadth of the temperature niche. Our analyses show that C4 photosynthesis in grasses originated in tropical climates, and that C3 grasses were more likely to colonise cold climates. However, migration rates among tropical and temperate climates were higher in C4 grasses. Therefore, while the origins of C4 photosynthesis were concentrated in tropical climates, its physiological benefits across a broad temperature range expanded the niche into warmer climates and enabled diversification into cooler environments.
Ecology Letters

Genome downsizing, physiological novelty, and the global dominance of flowering plants
Using a combination of anatomy, cytology, and modelling of liquid water transport and CO2 exchange between leaves and the atmosphere, we now provide strong evidence that the success and rapid spread of flowering plants around the world was the result of genome downsizing. Smaller genomes permit the construction of smaller cells that allow for greater CO2 uptake and photosynthetic carbon gain. Genome downsizing occurred only among the angiosperms, and we propose that it was a necessary prerequisite for rapid growth rates among land plants.
PLOS Biology

Urban evolutionary ecology and the potential benefits of implementing genomics
I provide a comprehensive review of previous urban ecological studies, with special focus on the molecular ecology and phenotypic adjustments documented in urban terrestrial and amphibious fauna. I subsequently pinpoint areas in the literature that could benefit from a genomic investigation and briefly discuss the suitability of specific techniques in addressing eco-evolutionary questions within urban ecology. Though many challenges exist with implementing genomics into urban ecology, such studies provide an exceptional opportunity to advance our understanding of eco-evolutionary processes in metropolitan areas.
Journal of Heredity

Integrating restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) with morphological cladistic analysis clarifies evolutionary relationships among major species groups of bee orchids
RAD-seq data strongly support the monophyly of nine out of ten groups previously circumscribed using nrITS and resolve three major clades; in contrast, supposed microspecies are barely distinguishable. Strong incongruence separated the RAD-seq trees from both the morphological trees and traditional classifications; mapping of the morphological characters across the RAD-seq topology rendered them far more homoplastic.
Annals of Botany


Next week and onwards

I'm hoping we get a guest post on Dioon out next week. I'm just waiting for the paper to go live before we get the post out. Nigel will be talking up Potassium. I'm also going to be looking at a hydroponics for idiots setup and working out how to blog that. If anyone knows of a cheap time-lapse camera set up, please let me know @botanyone on Twitter.



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