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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 11 2018, @05:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the I-thought-C4-went-boom dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Dry conditions may have helped a new type of plant gain a foothold on Earth

Researchers have long believed that falling carbon dioxide levels drove the origin of plants with this innovation, but a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, based on biochemical modeling by a group led by University of Pennsylvania biologists and paleoclimate modeling by a group at Purdue University, indicates that water availability may have been the critical factor behind the emergence of C4 plants.

"The initial origin of C4, which happened when atmospheric carbon dioxide was still very high, seems driven by water limitation," says Haoran Zhou, a graduate student in the School of Arts and Sciences' Biology Department and first author on the paper. "Then later, about 5 to 8 million years ago, there's a large expansion of C4 grasslands. That's because carbon dioxide was getting lower and lower. Carbon dioxide and light intensity were actually the limiting factors favoring C4 at that time."

"What we show," says Erol Akçay, an assistant professor of biology at Penn, "is that the increased water efficiency of the C4 pathway is enough to give it an initial ecological advantage in relatively arid environments. That's the benefit of doing this type of physiological modeling. If you were only looking at temperature and carbon dioxide, you might miss this role of water and light."

The researchers' work also suggest that C4 plants may have had a competitive advantage over C3 plants even when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were still relatively high, in the late Oligocene.

"The inference is that C4 could have evolved quite a bit earlier than we previously thought," says Penn's Brent Helliker, an associate professor of biology who, along with Akçay, serves as Zhou's advisor. "This supports some molecular clock estimates for when C4 evolved as well."

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  • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Sunday November 11 2018, @08:50PM (3 children)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Sunday November 11 2018, @08:50PM (#760707)

    Yes, but "life" doesn't neccesarily include humans []

    Books are a poor substitute for female companionship, but they are easier to find. P Rothfuss “The Wise Man's Fear"
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @09:39PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @09:39PM (#760715)

    Yeah the humans are SO much dumber than any antediluvian rat.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @09:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @09:43PM (#760717)

      Actually, they are.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by PartTimeZombie on Monday November 12 2018, @12:28AM

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 12 2018, @12:28AM (#760747)

      Yeah the humans are SO much dumber than any antediluvian rat.

      What does intelligence have to do with survivability? Organisms evolve to fit a niche in their environment.

      Intelligence is just one strategy to ensure survival, but jellyfish do it way better than we do. They've been trucking on for more than 500 million years, longer than anyone else in the multicellular business.

      This is the second period in our planet's history that an organism has altered the entire climate with its activities. The first time it happened, everything died. []

      I know you thing it's all bull, because "Your Team" doesn't believe in climate change, but it really doesn't matter what you believe.