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Concept: Leaf


A near-perfect mimetic association between a mecopteran insect species and a ginkgoalean plant species from the late Middle Jurassic of northeastern China recently has been discovered. The association stems from a case of mixed identity between a particular plant and an insect in the laboratory and the field. This confusion is explained as a case of leaf mimesis, wherein the appearance of the multilobed leaf of Yimaia capituliformis (the ginkgoalean model) was accurately replicated by the wings and abdomen of the cimbrophlebiid Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia (the hangingfly mimic). Our results suggest that hangingflies developed leaf mimesis either as an antipredator avoidance device or possibly as a predatory strategy to provide an antiherbivore function for its plant hosts, thus gaining mutual benefit for both the hangingfly and the ginkgo species. This documentation of mimesis is a rare occasion whereby exquisitely preserved, co-occurring fossils occupy a narrow spatiotemporal window that reveal likely reciprocal mechanisms which plants and insects provide mutual defensive support during their preangiospermous evolutionary histories.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Plant, Mimicry, Leaf, Lepidoptera, Ginkgo, Batesian mimicry


BackgroundAs proposed by Darwin, climbers have been assumed to allocate a smaller fraction of biomass to support organs in comparison with self-supporting plants. They have also been hypothesized to possess a set of traits associated with fast growth, resource uptake and high productivity.ScopeIn this review, these hypotheses are evaluated by assembling and synthesizing published and unpublished data sets from across the globe concerning resource allocation, growth rates and traits of leaves, stems and roots of climbers and self-supporting species.ConclusionsThe majority of studies offer little support for the smaller allocation of biomass to stems or greater relative growth rates in climbers; however, these results are based on small sized (<1 kg) plants. Simulations based on allometric biomass equations demonstrate, however, that larger lianas allocate a greater fraction of above-ground biomass to leaves (and therefore less biomass to stems) compared with similar sized trees. A survey of leaf traits of lianas revealed their lower average leaf mass per area (LMA), higher N and P concentration and a slightly higher mass-based photosynthetic rate, as well as a lower concentration of phenolic-based compounds than in woody self-supporting species, consistent with the specialization of lianas towards the fast metabolism/rapid turnover end of the global trait spectra. Liana stems have an efficient hydraulic design and unique mechanical features, while roots appear to penetrate deeper soil levels than in trees and are often able to generate hydraulic pressure. Much remains to be learned, however, about these and other functional specializations of their axial organs and the associated trade-offs. Developmental switches between self-supporting, searcher and climbing shoots within the same individual are a promising field of comparative studies on trait association in lianas. Finally, some of the vast trait variability within lianas may be reduced when species with different climbing mechanisms are considered separately, and when phylogenetic conservatism is accounted for.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Leaf, Plant morphology, Resource allocation, Climbing


In several taxa, increasing leaf succulence has been associated with decreasing mesophyll conductance (g M) and an increasing dependence on Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). However, in succulent Aizoaceae, the photosynthetic tissues are adjacent to the leaf surfaces with an internal achlorophyllous hydrenchyma. It was hypothesized that this arrangement increases g M, obviating a strong dependence on CAM, while the hydrenchyma stores water and nutrients, both of which would only be sporadically available in highly episodic environments. These predictions were tested with species from the Aizoaceae with a 5-fold variation in leaf succulence. It was shown that g M values, derived from the response of photosynthesis to intercellular CO2 concentration (A:C i), were independent of succulence, and that foliar photosynthate δ(13)C values were typical of C3, but not CAM photosynthesis. Under water stress, the degree of leaf succulence was positively correlated with an increasing ability to buffer photosynthetic capacity over several hours and to maintain light reaction integrity over several days. This was associated with decreased rates of water loss, rather than tolerance of lower leaf water contents. Additionally, the hydrenchyma contained ~26% of the leaf nitrogen content, possibly providing a nutrient reservoir. Thus the intermittent use of C3 photosynthesis interspersed with periods of no positive carbon assimilation is an alternative strategy to CAM for succulent taxa (Crassulaceae and Aizoaceae) which occur sympatrically in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Leaf, RuBisCO, C4 carbon fixation, C3 carbon fixation, Crassulacean acid metabolism, Carbon fixation


Flattened leaf architecture is not a default state but depends on positional information to precisely coordinate patterns of cell division in the growing primordium. This information is provided, in part, by the boundary between the adaxial (top) and abaxial (bottom) domains of the leaf, which are specified via an intricate gene regulatory network whose precise circuitry remains poorly defined. Here, we examined the contribution of the ASYMMETRIC LEAVES (AS) pathway to adaxial-abaxial patterning in Arabidopsis thaliana and demonstrate that AS1-AS2 affects this process via multiple, distinct regulatory mechanisms. AS1-AS2 uses Polycomb-dependent and -independent mechanisms to directly repress the abaxial determinants MIR166A, YABBY5, and AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR3 (ARF3), as well as a nonrepressive mechanism in the regulation of the adaxial determinant TAS3A. These regulatory interactions, together with data from prior studies, lead to a model in which the sequential polarization of determinants, including AS1-AS2, explains the establishment and maintenance of adaxial-abaxial leaf polarity. Moreover, our analyses show that the shared repression of ARF3 by the AS and trans-acting small interfering RNA (ta-siRNA) pathways intersects with additional AS1-AS2 targets to affect multiple nodes in leaf development, impacting polarity as well as leaf complexity. These data illustrate the surprisingly multifaceted contribution of AS1-AS2 to leaf development showing that, in conjunction with the ta-siRNA pathway, AS1-AS2 keeps the Arabidopsis leaf both flat and simple.

Concepts: Arabidopsis thaliana, Arabidopsis, Fern, Leaf


Transgenic crop “pyramids” producing two or more Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins active against the same pest are used to delay evolution of resistance in insect pest populations. Laboratory and greenhouse experiments were performed with fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, to characterize resistance to Bt maize producing Cry1A.105 and Cry2Ab and test some assumptions of the “pyramid” resistance management strategy. Selection of a field-derived strain of S. frugiperda already resistant to Cry1F maize with Cry1A.105 + Cry2Ab maize for ten generations produced resistance that allowed the larvae to colonize and complete the life cycle on these Bt maize plants. Greenhouse experiments revealed that the resistance was completely recessive (Dx = 0), incomplete, autosomal, and without maternal effects or cross-resistance to the Vip3Aa20 toxin produced in other Bt maize events. This profile of resistance supports some of the assumptions of the pyramid strategy for resistance management. However, laboratory experiments with purified Bt toxin and plant leaf tissue showed that resistance to Cry1A.105 + Cry2Ab2 maize further increased resistance to Cry1Fa, which indicates that populations of fall armyworm have high potential for developing resistance to some currently available pyramided maize used against this pest, especially where resistance to Cry1Fa was reported in the field.

Concepts: Bacillus, Leaf, Bacillus thuringiensis, Endotoxin, Genetically modified food, Army worm, Spodoptera, Transgenic maize


We show in this report that traces of juices released from salad leaves as they became damaged can significantly enhance Salmonella enterica salad leaf colonisation. Salad juices in water increased Salmonella growth by 110% over the un-supplemented control, and in host-like serum based media by more than 2400-fold over controls. In serum based media salad juices induced growth of Salmonella via provision of Fe from transferrin, and siderophore production was found to be integral to the growth induction process. Other aspects relevant to salad leaf colonisation and retention were enhanced, such as motility and biofilm formation, which increased over controls by >220% and 250% respectively; direct attachment to salad leaves increased by >350% when a salad leaf juice was present. In terms of growth and biofilm formation the endogenous salad leaf microbiota was largely unresponsive to leaf juice, suggesting that Salmonella gains a marked advantage from fluids released from salad leaf damage. Salad leaf juices also enhanced pathogen attachment to the salad bag plastic. Over 5 days refrigeration (a typical storage time for bagged salad leaves) even traces of juice within the salad bag fluids increased Salmonella growth in water by up to 280-fold over control cultures, as well as enhancing salad bag colonisation, which could be an unappreciated factor in pathogen fresh produce retention. Collectively, this study shows that exposure to salad leaf juice may contribute to the persistence of Salmonella on salad leaves, and strongly emphasizes the importance of ensuring the microbiological safety of fresh produce.

Concepts: Bacteria, Iron, Microbiology, Salmonella enterica, Salmonella, Leaf, Lettuce, Leaf vegetable


The value of a leaf to a plant depends on the fate of its exported assimilates. When these are translocated and used in the growth of new leaves they contribute to further carbon assimilation. The result is that their value to the plant is greatest while they are young. In contrast, when assimilates are translocated to storage, assimilates produced early and late in the life of a leaf are of equal value. This arguments is developed in relation to the optimal distribution of mineral resources and defenses during the life of leaves.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Water, Fern, Epidermis, Leaf, Plant morphology, Chlorophyll, Gymnosperm


Plant nanobionics aims to embed non-native functions to plants by interfacing them with specifically designed nanoparticles. Here, we demonstrate that living spinach plants (Spinacia oleracea) can be engineered to serve as self-powered pre-concentrators and autosamplers of analytes in ambient groundwater and as infrared communication platforms that can send information to a smartphone. The plants employ a pair of near-infrared fluorescent nanosensors-single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) conjugated to the peptide Bombolitin II to recognize nitroaromatics via infrared fluorescent emission, and polyvinyl-alcohol functionalized SWCNTs that act as an invariant reference signal-embedded within the plant leaf mesophyll. As contaminant nitroaromatics are transported up the roots and stem into leaf tissues, they accumulate in the mesophyll, resulting in relative changes in emission intensity. The real-time monitoring of embedded SWCNT sensors also allows residence times in the roots, stems and leaves to be estimated, calculated to be 8.3 min (combined residence times of root and stem) and 1.9 min mm(-1) leaf, respectively. These results demonstrate the ability of living, wild-type plants to function as chemical monitors of groundwater and communication devices to external electronics at standoff distances.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Ultraviolet, Root, Fern, Leaf, Amaranthaceae, Spinach


Global estimates of terrestrial gross primary production (GPP) remain highly uncertain, despite decades of satellite measurements and intensive in situ monitoring. We report a new approach for quantifying the near-infrared reflectance of terrestrial vegetation (NIRV). NIRV provides a foundation for a new approach to estimate GPP that consistently untangles the confounding effects of background brightness, leaf area, and the distribution of photosynthetic capacity with depth in canopies using existing moderate spatial and spectral resolution satellite sensors. NIRV is strongly correlated with solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence, a direct index of photons intercepted by chlorophyll, and with site-level and globally gridded estimates of GPP. NIRV makes it possible to use existing and future reflectance data as a starting point for accurately estimating GPP.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Plant, Photosystem, Leaf, Chlorophyll, Primary production, Chemosynthesis


Mimicry refers to adaptive similarity between a mimic organism and a model. Mimicry in animals is rather common, whereas documented cases in plants are rare, and the associated benefits are seldom elucidated [1, 2]. We show the occurrence of leaf mimicry in a climbing plant endemic to a temperate rainforest. The woody vine Boquila trifoliolata mimics the leaves of its supporting trees in terms of size, shape, color, orientation, petiole length, and/or tip spininess. Moreover, sequential leaf mimicry occurs when a single individual vine is associated with different tree species. Leaves of unsupported vines differed from leaves of climbing plants closely associated with tree foliage but did not differ from those of vines climbing onto leafless trunks. Consistent with an herbivory-avoidance hypothesis, leaf herbivory on unsupported vines was greater than that on vines climbing on trees but was greatest on vines climbing onto leafless trunks. Thus, B. trifoliolata gains protection against herbivory not merely by climbing and thus avoiding ground herbivores [3] but also by climbing onto trees whose leaves are mimicked. Unlike earlier cases of plant mimicry or crypsis, in which the plant roughly resembles a background or color pattern [4-7] or mimics a single host [8, 9], B. trifoliolata is able to mimic several hosts.

Concepts: Plant, Animal, Tree, Mimicry, Fern, Leaf, Plant morphology, Vine