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The Week in Botany 151

May 25, 2020

I've definitely had a sense of humour failure this week. Luckily, I've been able to browse the stories and papers being shared by people following @botanyone on Twitter. I missed that it was Fascination of Plants Day last Monday. I've got the Events calendar working and I'll need to load it in for next year. At the moment, it's an eclectic selection of events. I'll want to be loading Linneaus's birthday and Darwin day, as well as conference events.
Two events going ahead are Botany 2020, on July 27-31 and Plant Biology 2020 on July 27-31. There will be an Annals of Botany lecture at Botany 2020, and there may be more news about that next week. Normally I'd start plugging what stands you'd need to visit to see people from either the blog or a journal - but not this year.
So stay safe till next year. And if I haven't caught COVID from someone pushing past me in the supermarker, there should be another email with you next week.
Alun (

From Botany One

7 Plants You’ll Be Seeing More Of As Model Species
What plants will be shaping botanical research in the future? Here are seven candidates.

Orchid conservation must be guided by an understanding of their ecology
What makes orchids unique can also make saving them a challenge.

Sketch by Goethe may be first depiction of intraspecific trait variation
Though the phenomenon was known in Goethe’s time, research didn’t start in earnest for another century.

How do some plants become flammable? Insights from Dracophyllum
Why would a plant not frequently exposed to fire evolve to burn well?

How to eat bugs without really trying? Insights from the genomes of carnivorous plants
Genes for carnivory arose from a duplication of the genome turning plants into hunters.

Some pollen hitches a lift on butterfly wings to travel between plants
There's not a lot on a butterfly, if you ignore the wings. That's why some plants keen on pollination target them.

Grasses invading a sub-Antarctic Island respond to rising temperatures, at a cost
Changing temperatures on Marion Island will remove restraints holding back invasive grasses.

Invasion, isolation and evolution shape population genetic structure in Campanula rotundifolia
The genes of Harebell populations show the history of post-glacial colonisation.

Now is the time start a nature diary
You can help nature by making a little time for yourself.

To C4 or not to C4 if you’re a tree? Some possible answers
C4 photosynthesis is an efficient way of harnessing energy, yet trees rarely use it. Why is that?

News and Views

COVID-19 Statement | Plant Biology 2020
In response to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing actions taken globally to limit the spread of the virus, the ASPB Board of Directors has decided to convert Plant Biology 2020 to a fully online conference that includes both synchronous (real-time livestream) and asynchronous (on demand) access for attendees.

Two Assistant or Associate Professors (tenure track) - WUR
The Cluster Plant Developmental Biology (PDB) offers two tenure track positions at Assistant and/or Associate professor level. PDB is a newly formed cluster at the Plant Science Group of Wageningen University, and consisting of the two chair groups; Cell & Developmental Biology and Developmental Biology of Biotic & Environmental Interactions. PDB focuses on plant development potentially in response to biotic or abiotic cues.
Wageningen NL

Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Prof. Dr. Bart Thomma
Bart Thomma is one of five researchers who have been selected this year for a Humboldt Professorship. The University of Cologne nominated the plant scientist to receive Germany’s most prestigious international research prize.

TSL Communications Officer
We seek a communications specialist to promote and communicate our science through print, digital and social media. The successful applicant will support TSL to promote a clear, coherent and consistent internal and external brand, ensuring that we continue to be recognised nationally and internationally in the area of Plant-Microbe Interactions.
The Sainsbury Laboratory UK

Are women publishing less during the pandemic? Here’s what the data say
Early analyses suggest that female academics are posting fewer preprints and starting fewer research projects than their male peers.

EU pledges to raise €20bn a year to boost biodiversity
New strategy to protect nature includes far-reaching habitat protections, and restrictions on pesticide use – but campaigners warn enforcement is key.
The Guardian

I Tried to Grow a Pandemic Garden. My Strawberry Seedling Got a Virus.
Plants can get sick, too.
The New York Times

Biodiversity, resilience and a green recovery
On International Day of Biological Diversity 2020, Director of Science Alexandre Antonelli reflects on the importance of biodiversity in the face of the unexpected.

Robin Wall Kimmerer: 'People can’t understand the world as a gift unless someone shows them how'
Her book Braiding Sweetgrass has been a surprise bestseller. The nature writer talks about her fight for plant rights, and why she hopes the pandemic will increase human compassion for the natural world.
The Guardian

Enjoy the great outdoors – from the inside
You don’t have to leave your home to enjoy the magic of nature.
The Guardian

Scientific Papers

Comprehensive 3D phenotyping reveals continuous morphological variation across genetically diverse sorghum inflorescences
Li et al. apply X‐ray computed tomography combined with detailed morphometrics, offering new imaging and computational tools to analyze three‐dimensional inflorescence architecture. To show the power of this approach, they focus on the panicles of Sorghum bicolor , which vary extensively in numbers, lengths, and angles of primary branches, as well as the three‐dimensional shape, size, and distribution of the seed.
New Phytologist

The shapes of wine and table grape leaves: an ampelometric study inspired by the methods of Pierre Galet
Chitwood uses a saturating number of pseudo-landmarks to capture intricate, local features in grapevine leaves: the curvature of veins and the shapes of serrations. Using these points, averaged leaf shapes for 60 varieties of wine and table grapes are calculated that preserve features. A pairwise Procrustes distance matrix of the overall morphological similarity of each variety to the other classifies leaves into two main groups—deeply lobed and more entire—that correspond to the measurements of sinus depth by Pierre Galet. Using the system of Galet, pseudo-landmarks are converted into relative distance and angle measurements. Both Galet-inspired and Procrustean methods allow increased accuracy in predicting variety compared to a finite number of landmarks. Using Procrustean pseudo-landmarks captures grapevine leaf shape at the same level of detail as drawings and provides a quantitative method to arrive at mean leaf shapes representing varieties that can be used within a predictive statistical framework.

Heat stress response in the closest algal relatives of land plants reveals conserved stress signaling circuits
de Vries et al. explored the effect of heat stress in Mougeotia and Spirogyra , two representatives of Zygnematophyceae – the closest known algal sister lineage to land plants. Heat stress induced pronounced phenotypic alterations in their plastids, and high‐performance liquid chromatography‐tandem mass spectroscopy‐based profiling of 565 transitions for the analysis of main central metabolites revealed significant shifts in 43 compounds. They also analyzed the global differential gene expression responses triggered by heat, generating 92.8 Gbp of sequence data and assembling a combined set of 8905 well‐expressed genes. Each organism had its own distinct gene expression profile; less than one‐half of their shared genes showed concordant gene expression trends. They nevertheless detected common signature responses to heat such as elevated transcript levels for molecular chaperones, thylakoid components, and – corroborating our metabolomic data – amino acid metabolism. They also uncovered the heat‐stress responsiveness of genes for phosphorelay‐based signal transduction that links environmental cues, calcium signatures and plastid biology.
The Plant Journal

Horizontal gene transfer of Fhb7 from fungus underlies Fusarium head blight resistance in wheat
Fusarium head blight (FHB), caused by a fungus, reduces wheat crop yield and introduces toxins into the harvest. From the assembly of the genome of Thinopyrum elongatum, a wild relative of wheat used in breeding programs to improve cultivated wheat, Wang et al. cloned a gene that can address both problems. The encoded glutathione S-transferase detoxifies the trichothecene toxin and, when expressed in wheat, confers resistance to FHB.

Bumble bees damage plant leaves and accelerate flower production when pollen is scarce
Bumble bees rely heavily on pollen resources for essential nutrients as they build their summer colonies. Therefore, we might expect that annual differences in the availability of these resources must simply be tolerated, but Pashalidou et al. made observations suggesting that bees may have strategies to cope with irregular seasonal flowering. When faced with a shortage of pollen, bumble bees actively damaged plant leaves in a characteristic way, and this behavior resulted in earlier flowering by as much as 30 days. Experimenters were not able to fully replicate the results with their own damage, suggesting that there is a distinct method that the bees use to stimulate earlier flowering.

Genomic history and ecology of the geographic spread of rice
Gutaker et al. reconstruct the history of rice dispersal in Asia using whole-genome sequences of more than 1,400 landraces, coupled with geographic, environmental, archaeobotanical and paleoclimate data. Originating around 9,000 yr ago in the Yangtze Valley, rice diversified into temperate and tropical japonica rice during a global cooling event about 4,200 yr ago. Soon after, tropical japonica rice reached Southeast Asia, where it rapidly diversified, starting about 2,500 yr BP. The history of indica rice dispersal appears more complicated, moving into China around 2,000 yr BP. They also identify extrinsic factors that influence genome diversity, with temperature being a leading abiotic factor. ReadCube
Nature Plants

Phylogenetic tree building in the genomic age
Kapli et al. discuss the major steps of phylogenetic analysis, including identification of orthologous genes or proteins, multiple sequence alignment, and choice of substitution models and inference methodologies. Understanding the different sources of errors and the strategies to mitigate them is essential for assembling an accurate tree of life.
Nature Reviews Genetics

Pollination by hoverflies in the Anthropocene
Doyle et al. contrast the roles of hoverflies and bees as pollinators, discuss the need for research and monitoring of different pollinator responses to anthropogenic change and examine emerging research into large populations of migratory hoverflies, the threats they face and how they might be used to improve sustainable agriculture.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Fungi are more dispersal-limited than bacteria among flowers
Vannette et al. compare the incidence and abundance of culturable flower-inhabiting bacteria and fungi among individual flowers. Using collections that span two coflowering communities across two years, they assess viable bacterial and fungal incidence and abundance within individual flower samples, and examine patterns across plant species that differ in flower traits. Their results demonstrate that bacteria can be detected in more flowers and in greater numerical abundance than fungi, particularly in flowers with more exposed corollas. For fungi, however, flowers with long corollas were equally likely as exposed flowers to contain cells, and hosted higher numbers of fungal cells, primarily yeasts. Across all flowers, bacteria and fungal incidence was positively related, but within flowers containing microbes, bacterial and fungal incidence was negatively related, suggesting shared dispersal routes but competition among microbes within flowers.

Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth’s tropical forests
A key uncertainty in climate change models is the thermal sensitivity of tropical forests and how this value might influence carbon fluxes. Sullivan et al. measured carbon stocks and fluxes in permanent forest plots distributed globally. This synthesis of plot networks across climatic and biogeographic gradients shows that forest thermal sensitivity is dominated by high daytime temperatures. This extreme condition depresses growth rates and shortens the time that carbon resides in the ecosystem by killing trees under hot, dry conditions.


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