Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How did flowering plants evolve to dominate Earth?

Date:
December 1, 2009
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Scientists have discovered the evolutionary step which allowed flowering plants to become the most abundant and ecologically successful group of plants on Earth.

Colorful tulips and other spring flowers in the Keukenhof Gardens, the Netherlands. How did flowering plants come to dominate plant life on earth?
Credit: iStockphoto/Monika Lewandowska

To Charles Darwin it was an 'abominable mystery' and it is a question which has continued to vex evolutionists to this day: when did flowering plants evolve and how did they come to dominate plant life on earth? A new study in Ecology Letters reveals the evolutionary trigger which led to early flowering plants gaining a major competitive advantage over rival species, leading to their subsequent boom and abundance.

The study, by Dr Tim Brodribb and Dr Taylor Field of the University of Tasmania and University of Tennessee, used plant physiology to reveal how flowering plants, including crops, were able to dominate land by evolving more efficient hydraulics, or 'leaf plumbing', to increase rates of photosynthesis.

"Flowering plants are the most abundant and ecologically successful group of plants on earth," said Brodribb. "One reason for this dominance is the relatively high photosynthetic capacity of their leaves, but when and how this increased photosynthetic capacity evolved has been a mystery."

Using measurements of leaf vein density and a linked hydraulic-photosynthesis model, Brodribb and Field reconstructed the evolution of leaf hydraulic capacity in seed plants. Their results revealed that an evolutionary transformation in the plumbing of angiosperm leaves pushed photosynthetic capacity to new heights.

The reason for the success of this evolutionary step is that under relatively low atmospheric C02 conditions, like those existing at present, water transport efficiency and photosynthetic performance are tightly linked. Therefore adaptations that increase water transport will enhance maximum photosynthesis, exerting substantial evolutionary leverage over competing species.

The evolution of dense leaf venation in flowering plants, around 140-100 million years ago, was an event with profound significance for the continued evolution of flowering plants. This step provided a 'cretaceous productivity stimulus package' which reverberated across the biosphere and led to these plants playing the fundamental role in the biological and atmospheric functions of the earth.

"Without this hydraulic system we predict leaf photosynthesis would be two-fold lower then present," concludes Brodribb. "So it is significant to note that without this evolutionary step land plants would not have the physical capacity to drive the high productivity that underpins modern terrestrial biology and human civilisation."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "How did flowering plants evolve to dominate Earth?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201100221.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2009, December 1). How did flowering plants evolve to dominate Earth?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201100221.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "How did flowering plants evolve to dominate Earth?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201100221.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins