February 2012

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  • Root traits and decomposition rates

    Root traits and decomposition rates

    Fine-root decomposition is an important determinant of nutrient and carbon cycling in grasslands, but little is known about the factors controlling interspecific root decomposition. By studying 18 Mediterranean herbaceous species from different life histories and taxonomic groups, Birouste et al. demonstrate that the potential decomposition rate of fine roots is affected by root chemical composition […] More

  • Model of myxospermous seed-mucilage expansion

    Model of myxospermous seed-mucilage expansion

    Myxospermy, the ability of a seed to produce mucilage upon hydration, is reported to provide important functional advantages to various aspects of seed ecology. Using data gathered from the myxospermous seeds of shepherd’s purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Deng et al. parameterize the volume and weight of the mucilage before and after expansion. They find that expansion […] More

  • Image: Wikimedia Commons.

    Manioc marriage mystery unearthed

    Echoing Forrest Gump’s famous box of chocolates quote (number 40 in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movie quotes), you never really know what to expect when you get married. Well, certainly in some parts of Africa you may get more than you bargained for! Investigating marriage practices in small African farming communities in Gabon, […] More

  • PHAN and compound leaf morphology

    PHAN and compound leaf morphology

    For both simple and compound leaves, a MYB domain transcription factor PHANTASTICA (PHAN) plays an important role in establishing the adaxial domain in the leaf. Zoulias et al. generate and analyse transgenic tomato plants expressing tomato PHAN (SlPHAN) and tobacco plants that over-express tomato SlPHAN. Modulations in SlPHAN resulted in a variety of leaf morphologies, and […] More

  • New taxonomy of Brachypodium distachyon

    New taxonomy of Brachypodium distachyon

    The model grass species Brachypodium distachyon has three cytotypes that are currently regarded as part of a single species. Catalán et al. combine analysis of phenotypic traits with multiple cytogenetic analyses and detect significant differences between the cytotypes and demonstrate stability of characters in natural populations. Genome size estimations, GISH, FISH and CCP confirm that the […] More

  • Passerine pollination in a winter-flowering tree

    Passerine pollination in a winter-flowering tree

    Birds can be alternative pollinators for winter-flowering plants outside the tropics where low temperatures limit insect activity. Feng et al. observe pollinator visitation to loquat (Eriobotrya japonica, Rosaceae) and exclude birds and other animals from the flowers. They determine that in late winter two passerine birds (Pycnonotus sinensis and Zosterops japonicus) are effective pollinators, and that […] More

  • Ontogeny constrains sprouting in Quercus

    Ontogeny constrains sprouting in Quercus

    Evidence suggest that suppressed bud burst and thus epicormic shoot emergence (sprouting) are controlled by water–carbohydrate supplies to entire trees and buds. Morisset et al. study stand water status and carbohydrate distribution in dominant trees of sessile oak, Quercus petraea, and find that sprouting is more intense in parts of the stand free from accompanying vegetation […] More

  • Progenitor–derivative speciation in Pozoa

    Progenitor–derivative speciation in Pozoa

    Progenitor–derivative speciation occurs when an isolated peripheral population diverges from the ancestral condition and forms a derivative species. López et al. find evidence of this type of speciation in the genus Pozoa (Apiaceae), consisting of two species endemic to the southern Andes. Pozoa volcanica appears to have derived recently from the progenitor, P. coriacea, as […] More

  • Phenology and resource allocation in Ruellia

    Phenology and resource allocation in Ruellia

    In plants that produce both closed, obligatory self-pollinated (cleistogamous) and open, potentially out-crossed (chasmogamous) flowers, suboptimal conditions typically favour production of cleistogamous flowers. Munguía-Rosas et al. study the effects of shade and drought on Ruellia nudiflora and find that cleistogamous flowers are produced earlier under shaded conditions whilst chasmogamous flowers are produced for shorter periods; however, […] More

  • Wikipedia

    Embrace Wikipedia!(?)

    Now that’s probably something you thought you would never hear an academic say. Well, let’s qualify that outrageous statement. Acknowledging that entries on Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/) can be amended by anybody who has access to the internet – whether they have, or have not, an axe to grind – we rightly caution our students that Wikipedia is […] More

  • Diversity, mutation and fire strategies in Grevillea

    Diversity, mutation and fire strategies in Grevillea

    Grevillea rhizomatosa is a spreading shrub that exhibits multiple breeding strategies including self-compatibility, self-incompatibility and clonality (with and without sterility).Gross et al. compare genetic diversity among populations and find that somatic mutations contribute significantly to gene diversity in sterile populations, the accumulation of which is the likely cause of male and female sterility. They conclude that […] More

  • Anagenetic speciation in Acer okamotoanum

    Anagenetic speciation in Acer okamotoanum

    Anagenesis (also known as phyletic speciation), in which initial founder populations simply diverge through time without a branching event, is an important process of speciation in endemic species of oceanic islands. Takayama et al. investigate the genetic consequences in Acer okamotoanum (Sapindaceae), an anagenetically derived species endemic to Ullung Island, South Korea. No geographical genetic […] More

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