Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Common orchid gives scientists hope in face of climate change

Date:
August 10, 2010
Source:
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Summary:
A study that focuses on epigenetics in European common marsh orchids has revealed that some plants may be able to adapt more quickly to environmental change than previously thought. The research brings new hope to plant conservation.

Dactylorhiza traunsteineri in Yorkshire, England.
Credit: Photo by Dr. Ovidiu Paun

A study led by scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's Jodrell Laboratory, which focuses on epigenetics in European common marsh orchids, has revealed that some plants may be able to adapt more quickly to environmental change than previously thought. The research, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, brings new hope to plant conservation.

Related Articles


Epigenetics comprises hidden influences upon gene functions that occur without a change in the DNA sequence, but are potentially inheritable, and it is a new field of research that is reshaping the way scientists look at the living world. This new evidence that environmental effects on gene activity can be 'remembered' is hugely significant. In the modern interpretation of Darwin's theory of evolution, scientists previously thought that genetic mutations (permanent changes in DNA sequence) were the only source of new traits that could be handed down from generation to generation, causing changes to the way species react to their environment. This process of adaptation can take hundreds of years and is almost certainly too slow for plants to adapt to rapid climate change.

However, in this cutting-edge study on a group of marsh orchids, Kew scientists have found that epigenetic variation can significantly influence the adaptive potential of an individual species. In turn, this affects the evolutionary potential of a species at a much quicker rate than was previously thought.

This study focused on three recently formed species of delicate purple European marsh-orchids (Dactylorhiza) of hybrid origin, two of them occurring in the UK. Despite having a highly similar genetic heritage, the three orchids differ considerably in ecological requirements, morphology, physical characteristics and distribution.

Dr Ovidiu Paun, lead researcher says, "In contrast to the genetic information, which is a more "closed" system, the environment can alter the epigenetic context of individual species, and this adaptive pathway is complementary to the currently accepted view on evolution. The results in the paper demonstrate that Darwinian selection acts on epigenetic variation in the same way as on the genetic information to result in adaptation and divergence between species within a small number of generations."

He continues, "Our results show the importance of the environment in altering inherited traits in these orchids and also contributing to biodiversity. The epigenetic level of natural variation can be adaptive and has the potential to be rapidly released, in a few generations, in contrast to genetic variation."

Adds Professor Mark Chase, Keeper of Kew's Jodrell Laboratory," Our results are particularly relevant in the present context of widespread environmental challenges and give us more hope in the adaptive potential of organisms. It is not instantaneous, but it is much faster than what we thought previously.

"However, this also means that ex-situ conservation of threatened species, when individuals are removed from their original environment and are usually relocated to a botanical garden, is not the best strategy for their preservation, as it may delete any intrinsic epigenetic specificity. A much better solution remains their conservation in the wild."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. O. Paun, R. M. Bateman, M. F. Fay, M. Hedren, L. Civeyrel, M. W. Chase. Stable epigenetic effects impact adaptation in allopolyploid orchids (Dactylorhiza: Orchidaceae). Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2010; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msq150

Cite This Page:

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. "Common orchid gives scientists hope in face of climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810094615.htm>.
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. (2010, August 10). Common orchid gives scientists hope in face of climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810094615.htm
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. "Common orchid gives scientists hope in face of climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810094615.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
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