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 April 19, 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 April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
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:
from the past week

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