Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Discerning the origin of flowers

The unexpected explosion of flowering plant species 130 million years has been a mystery to scientists, Darwin included. Researchers at the University of Florida have published findings from a study on the original gene regulatory program that produced the first flower on all flowering plant's common ancestor. They studied the genetics of two very different species of angiosperms, Arabidopsis thaliana, a common flowering plant used in plant genetics research, and Persea americana, a primitive flowering plant; their aim was to see if the genetic circuitry that gave rise to each species' flower had any differences. The results found that the Persea's flowers contained genetic relics, gene regulation instructions that would facilitate the transformation of cones into flowers.

This discovery lends further insight into the sudden onset of angiosperms in a previously gymnosperm-dominated world, suggesting a mechanism for how angiosperms could have directly descended from gymnosperms. Further research into this genetic circutry could assist scientists in manipulating the traits of plants so as to make them more resistant to drought or disease.

-Andrew Plan

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