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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday January 13 2018, @06:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the size-does-matter dept.

When people consider evolutionary events related to the origin and diversification of new species and groups, they tend to emphasize novel adaptations — specific genes giving rise to new, beneficial traits. But a growing body of research suggests that in some cases, that deciding factor may be something much more fundamental: size. In a paper published today in PLOS Biology, a pair of researchers studying the angiosperms, or flowering plants, has named genome size as the limiting constraint in their evolution.

The success of flowering plants, a group that includes everything from orchids and tulips to grasses and wheat, represents a long-standing puzzle for biologists. (In an 1879 letter to the renowned botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, Charles Darwin called it an "abominable mystery.") Terrestrial plants first appeared nearly half a billion years ago, but flowering plants arose only in the past 100 million years, beginning in the Cretaceous period. Yet, once angiosperms emerged, their structural and functional diversity exploded — far outpacing the diversification and spread of the other major plant groups, the gymnosperms (including conifers) and ferns.

Today, the 350,000 flowering-plant species, which have flourished in the vast majority of environments on Earth, constitute 90 percent of all plants on land. Since Darwin's time, biologists pursuing the answer to that abominable mystery have sought to explain how the flowering plants could possibly have achieved this level of dominance in such a relatively short time.

Perhaps the answer has been so elusive because those scientists have usually focused on the physiological traits that set the angiosperms apart from their relatives. In the PLOS Biology paper, however, Kevin Simonin, a plant biologist at San Francisco State University, and Adam Roddy, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, argue that it's the genome sizes underlying those individual adaptations that really matter.


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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @07:20PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @07:20PM (#621907)

    I hate when the angiosperms start ejaculating on my car.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @07:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @07:52PM (#621914)

      I hate it more when they are ejaculating into my nose. Damn hayfever....

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by hendrikboom on Saturday January 13 2018, @08:11PM (1 child)

    by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 13 2018, @08:11PM (#621916) Homepage

    Aren't the flowering plants the ones that reproduce sexually?

    There are advantages to sexual reproduction in letting beneficial genes spread through the population and combining with other such.

    • (Score: 2) by r1348 on Sunday January 14 2018, @12:24AM

      by r1348 (5988) on Sunday January 14 2018, @12:24AM (#622009)

      Gymnosperms reproduce sexually too. AFAIK only ferns have a secondary asexual reproductive process.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @08:29PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @08:29PM (#621923)

    God did it. Next question.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by maxwell demon on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:00PM (2 children)

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:00PM (#621927) Journal

      Why did he wait that long before doing it?

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Bot on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:17PM (1 child)

        by Bot (3902) on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:17PM (#621931)

        As I say often, the hypothetical eternal god has no time in which to wait, else it is not supernatural.

        consider a host, hosting a completely insulated and perfectly emulated VM. The VM has cpu time but it has meaning only inside the VM, outside all it matters is the host speed. It could be lower than the VM rated speed, and the program in the VM cannot tell, since nothing is mapped outside due to insulation.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14 2018, @04:24PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14 2018, @04:24PM (#622198)
          And yet so many inside the VM are so confident that God exists or doesn't exist based on the rules inside the VM.

          The fact is there might be a Great End User who got the VM from a Great VM creator. And they might be good or merely "average" according to those outside the VM, but otherwise from inside the VM.

          How many scientists are considered evil for destroying entire planets and star systems in their simulations? How accurate does a simulation have to be before it's evil? How can you prove there's consciousness/sentience in some simulations and none in other simulations when you can't 100% prove consciousness even in other humans?
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by maxwell demon on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:21PM (1 child)

    by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:21PM (#621933) Journal

    In other words, the flowering plants did get their advantage through massive code refactoring.

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by crafoo on Saturday January 13 2018, @10:28PM

      by crafoo (6639) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 13 2018, @10:28PM (#621962)

      Not such a good analogy, since refactoring suggests an architecture or plan for the "code", which isn't the case. Although I guess Monte Carlo Refactoring might make some paperback sales to middle management.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13 2018, @09:44PM (#621948)

    "Since Darwin’s time, biologists pursuing the answer to that abominable mystery have sought to explain how the flowering plants could possibly have achieved this level of dominance in such a relatively short time."

    Perhaps the strategic advantage of flowers is that it draws insects which can crawl and fly which transports the plant's genes on average faster and farther than a plant without them.
    This would permit natural selection over a more diverse variety of environments which might explain the takeover.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14 2018, @02:11AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14 2018, @02:11AM (#622050)

    Intriguingly, they show that some of the moths and butterflies belonged to a group still alive today that have long straw-like tongues for sucking up nectar 200 M years ago.

    A Triassic-Jurassic window into the evolution of Lepidoptera (open, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701568) (DX)

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Sunday January 14 2018, @07:17AM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 14 2018, @07:17AM (#622113) Journal

      that have long straw-like tongues for sucking up nectar 200 M years ago.

      Wow, I didn't know that moths and butterflies have time-travelling tongues. :-)

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14 2018, @08:29PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14 2018, @08:29PM (#622262)

      I think that the word you seek is jibe. [google.com]

      "Jive" is an entirely different thing. [google.com]
      (Don't ever say that Beaver Cleaver's mom wasn't cool.)

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15 2018, @01:45AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15 2018, @01:45AM (#622366)

    The advantage flowering plants have is using insects to spread their DNA. Maybe plants that have difficulty spreading DNA have to partly compensate with more complex DNA. Therefore, a small genome may be more a result of their reproductive method than simply a "better" strategy.

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