Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Plants


Establishing the timescale of early land plant evolution is essential for testing hypotheses on the coevolution of land plants and Earth’s System. The sparseness of early land plant megafossils and stratigraphic controls on their distribution make the fossil record an unreliable guide, leaving only the molecular clock. However, the application of molecular clock methodology is challenged by the current impasse in attempts to resolve the evolutionary relationships among the living bryophytes and tracheophytes. Here, we establish a timescale for early land plant evolution that integrates over topological uncertainty by exploring the impact of competing hypotheses on bryophyte-tracheophyte relationships, among other variables, on divergence time estimation. We codify 37 fossil calibrations for Viridiplantae following best practice. We apply these calibrations in a Bayesian relaxed molecular clock analysis of a phylogenomic dataset encompassing the diversity of Embryophyta and their relatives within Viridiplantae. Topology and dataset sizes have little impact on age estimates, with greater differences among alternative clock models and calibration strategies. For all analyses, a Cambrian origin of Embryophyta is recovered with highest probability. The estimated ages for crown tracheophytes range from Late Ordovician to late Silurian. This timescale implies an early establishment of terrestrial ecosystems by land plants that is in close accord with recent estimates for the origin of terrestrial animal lineages. Biogeochemical models that are constrained by the fossil record of early land plants, or attempt to explain their impact, must consider the implications of a much earlier, middle Cambrian-Early Ordovician, origin.

Concepts: Evolution, Plant, Plants, Bryophyte, Embryophyte, Moss, Marchantiophyta, Hornwort


Managed bees are critical for crop pollination worldwide. As the demand for pollinator-dependent crops increases, so does the use of managed bees. Concern has arisen that managed bees may have unintended negative impacts on native wild bees, which are important pollinators in both agricultural and natural ecosystems. The goal of this study was to synthesize the literature documenting the effects of managed honey bees and bumble bees on wild bees in three areas: (1) competition for floral and nesting resources, (2) indirect effects via changes in plant communities, including the spread of exotic plants and decline of native plants, and (3) transmission of pathogens. The majority of reviewed studies reported negative effects of managed bees, but trends differed across topical areas. Of studies examining competition, results were highly variable with 53% reporting negative effects on wild bees, while 28% reported no effects and 19% reported mixed effects (varying with the bee species or variables examined). Equal numbers of studies examining plant communities reported positive (36%) and negative (36%) effects, with the remainder reporting no or mixed effects. Finally, the majority of studies on pathogen transmission (70%) reported potential negative effects of managed bees on wild bees. However, most studies across all topical areas documented the potential for impact (e.g. reporting the occurrence of competition or pathogens), but did not measure direct effects on wild bee fitness, abundance, or diversity. Furthermore, we found that results varied depending on whether managed bees were in their native or non-native range; managed bees within their native range had lesser competitive effects, but potentially greater effects on wild bees via pathogen transmission. We conclude that while this field has expanded considerably in recent decades, additional research measuring direct, long-term, and population-level effects of managed bees is needed to understand their potential impact on wild bees.

Concepts: Insect, Pathogen, Honey bee, Pollination, Plants, Bee, Bumblebee, Pollinators


As a consequence of climate warming, species usually shift their distribution towards higher latitudes or altitudes. Yet, it is unclear how different taxonomic groups may respond to climate warming over larger altitudinal ranges. Here, we used data from the national biodiversity monitoring program of Switzerland, collected over an altitudinal range of 2500 m. Within the short period of eight years (2003-2010), we found significant shifts in communities of vascular plants, butterflies and birds. At low altitudes, communities of all species groups changed towards warm-dwelling species, corresponding to an average uphill shift of 8 m, 38 m and 42 m in plant, butterfly and bird communities, respectively. However, rates of community changes decreased with altitude in plants and butterflies, while bird communities changed towards warm-dwelling species at all altitudes. We found no decrease in community variation with respect to temperature niches of species, suggesting that climate warming has not led to more homogenous communities. The different community changes depending on altitude could not be explained by different changes of air temperatures, since during the 16 years between 1995 and 2010, summer temperatures in Switzerland rose by about 0.07°C per year at all altitudes. We discuss that land-use changes or increased disturbances may have prevented alpine plant and butterfly communities from changing towards warm-dwelling species. However, the findings are also consistent with the hypothesis that unlike birds, many alpine plant species in a warming climate could find suitable habitats within just a few metres, due to the highly varied surface of alpine landscapes. Our results may thus support the idea that for plants and butterflies and on a short temporal scale, alpine landscapes are safer places than lowlands in a warming world.

Concepts: Species, Plant, Taxonomy, Change, Vascular plant, Fern, Plants, Global warming


A livestock poisoning outbreak near Kingman, Arizona, USA, potentially linked to dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloids, prompted an evaluation of some local plants for the presence of these hepatotoxic alkaloids.

Concepts: Plant, Plants, Cryptantha affinis


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) have been implicated in non-native plant invasion success and persistence. However, few studies have identified the AMF species associating directly with plant invaders, or how these associations differ from those of native plant species. Identifying changes to the AMF community due to plant invasion could yield key plant-AMF interactions necessary for the restoration of native plant communities. This research compared AMF associating with coexisting Bromus tectorum, an invasive annual grass, and Artemisia tridentata, the dominant native shrub in western North America. At three sites, soil and root samples from Bromus and Artemisia were collected. Sporulation was induced using trap cultures, and spores were identified using morphological characteristics. DNA was extracted from root and soil subsamples and amplified. Sequences obtained were aligned and analyzed to compare diversity, composition, and phylogenetic distance between hosts and sites. Richness of AMF species associated with Artemisia in cultures was higher than AMF species associated with Bromus. Gamma diversity was similar and beta diversity was higher in AMF associated with Bromus compared to Artemisia. AMF community composition differed between hosts in both cultures and roots. Two AMF species (Archaeospora trappei and Viscospora viscosum) associated more frequently with Artemisia than Bromus across multiple sites. AMF communities in Bromus roots were more phylogenetically dispersed than in Artemisia roots, indicating a greater competition for resources within the invasive grass. Bromus associated with an AMF community that differed from Artemisia in a number of ways, and these changes could restrict native plant establishment.

Concepts: Species, Plant, Fungus, Soil, Mycorrhiza, Glomeromycota, Arbuscular mycorrhiza, Plants


Helleborus genus, belonging to the Ranunculaceae family, has 20 species of herbaceous perennial flowering plants. The commercial exploitation of this plant is dependent on the selection and propagation of appropriate lines. High propagation rate could be accomplished by using a suitable tissue culture method enabling the rapid introduction of valuable selections in the market. However, in vitro cultivation of Helleborus is still very difficult. Thereby the development of reliable in vitro propagation procedures is crucial for future production systems. Axillary buds cultured on agar-solidified Murashige and Skoog medium supplemented with 1 mg/L benzyladenine, 0.1 mg/L β-naphthoxyacetic acid, and 2 mg/L isopentenyl adenine develop shoots after 16 weeks of culture under 16 h light regime, 50-60 μmol/s/m(2), and 19 ± 1°C. The multiplication rate ranges from 1.4 to 2.1. However, the genotype and the number of subcultures affect the efficiency of the micropropagation process. The rooting of shoots is about 80% in solidified MS medium containing 1 mg/L 1-naphthaleneacetic acid and 3 mg/L indole-3-butyric acid. The described protocol provides information which can contribute to the commercial production of Helleborus plants.

Concepts: Natural selection, Plant, Bud, Culture, Annual plant, Plants, Plant hormone, Perennial plant


With the discovery of strigolactones as root exudate signals that trigger parasitic weed seed germination, and then as a branching inhibitor and plant hormone, the next phase of strigolactone research has quickly revealed this hormone class as a major player in optimizing plant growth and development. From the early stages of plant evolution, it seems that strigolactones were involved in enabling plants to modify growth in order to gain advantage in competition with neighboring organisms for limited resources. For example, a moss plant can alter its growth in response to strigolactones emanating from a neighbor. Within a higher plant, strigolactones appear to be involved in controlling the balance of resource distribution via strategic modification of growth and development. Most notably, higher plants that encounter phosphate deficiency increase strigolactone production, which changes root growth and promotes fungal symbiosis to enhance phosphate intake. The shoot also changes by channeling resources away from unessential leaves and branches and into the main stem and root system. This hormonal response is a key adaption that radically alters whole plant architecture in order to optimize growth and development under diverse environmental conditions.

Concepts: Plant, Vascular plant, Root, Fern, Plants, Seed, Plant morphology, Moss


ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: This study has identified not only the wild plants collected for medical purposes by local people of Solhan District in the Eastern Anatolia Region, but also the uses and local names of these plants. It tried to provide a source for researchers studying in ethnobotany, pharmacology and chemistry by comparing the information obtained from traditionally used herbs with previous laboratory studies. AIM OF THE STUDY: This study aims to identify wild plants collected for medical purposes by the local people of Solhan District located in the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey and to determine the uses and local names of these plants. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A field study had been carried out for a period of approximately 2 years (2011-2012). During this period, 214 vascular plant specimens were collected. Demographic characteristics of participants, names of the local plants, their utilized parts and preparation methods were investigated and recorded. The plant species were collected within the scope of the study; herbarium materials were prepared; and the specimens were entitled. In addition, the relative importance value of the species was determined and informant consensus factor (FIC) was calculated for the medicinal plants included in the study. Our research area also includes people with Kurdish and Zaza ethnic origins. RESULTS: 82 plants were found to be used for medical purposes before in the literature analysis of the plants used in our study, while 9 plants were found to have no literature records. The most common families are: Asteraceae (12 plants), Rosaceae (10 plants), and Lamiaceae (9 plants). The medicinal uses of Anthriscus cerefolium (L.) Hoffm., Arum elongnatum Steven, Astragalus lamarckii Boiss., Chaerophyllum bulbosum L., Crataegus atrosanguinea Pojark., Hordeum bulbosum L., Pastinaca armena Fisch. & Mey., Prunus kurdica Fenzl ex Fritsch, Sium sisarum L. var. lancifolium (M. Bieb.) Thell. that we found were used in our study area and recorded for the first time. No information could be obtained regarding the names of two wild plants that are being used in Solhan. In Turkey, local plant names display differences especially due to local dialects. The plants used in Solhan are known by the same or different local names in various parts of Anatolia. CONCLUSION: In the research area, local people were found to use 82 plants from 31 families for curative purposes. The respondents of the questionnaire are Turkish citizens, with various ethnic backgrounds. Mean age of the respondents was 55 years. These plants are used in the treatment of many diseases. Comparison of the data obtained in this study with the experimental data obtained in the previous laboratory studies derived from the plants growing in Solhan proved ethnobotanical usages to a great extent. Literature review indicated that the curative plants that grow in Solhan are used in different parts of the world for the treatment of similar diseases. These plants, used for the treatment of various diseases, are abundantly found in this region. Drying of the medicinal plants enabled the local people to use them in every season of the year.

Concepts: Plant, Ethnic group, Vascular plant, Fern, Plants, Apiaceae, Turkey, Chaerophyllum bulbosum


Polyploidy is an important force shaping plant genomes. All flowering plants are descendants of an ancestral polyploid species, and up to 70% of extant vascular plant species are believed to be recent polyploids. Over the past century, a significant body of knowledge has accumulated regarding the prevalence and ecology of polyploid plants. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of the causes and molecular consequences of polyploidization in angiosperms. We also provide a discussion on the relationships between polyploidy and adaptation and suggest areas where further research may provide a better understanding of polyploidy.

Concepts: Species, Plant, Vascular plant, Polyploidy, Fern, Plants, Flowering plant, Pinophyta


The cataloging of the vascular plants of the Americas has a centuries-long history, but it is only in recent decades that an overview of the entire flora has become possible. We present an integrated assessment of all known native species of vascular plants in the Americas. Twelve regional and national checklists, prepared over the past 25 years and including two large ongoing flora projects, were merged into a single list. Our publicly searchable checklist includes 124,993 species, 6227 genera, and 355 families, which correspond to 33% of the 383,671 vascular plant species known worldwide. In the past 25 years, the rate at which new species descriptions are added has averaged 744 annually for the Americas, and we can expect the total to reach about 150,000.

Concepts: Time, Species, Plant, Vascular plant, Fern, Plants, Flowering plant, Lycopodiophyta