Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Date:
April 18, 2014
Source:
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Summary:
Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But in the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More than just an insurance policy against late frosts or unexpected dry spells, it turns out that seed dormancy has long-term advantages too: plants whose seeds put off sprouting until conditions are more certain give rise to more species.

Sprouts. Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful.
Credit: andreusK / Fotolia

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More than just an insurance policy against late frosts or unexpected dry spells, it turns out that seed dormancy has long-term advantages too: Plants whose seeds put off sprouting until conditions are more certain give rise to more species, finds in a team of researchers working at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina.

When they first emerge from the soil, plant seedlings are very vulnerable, said co-author Rafael Rubio de Casas of the Universidad of Granada in Spain. "They're like babies. They don't have protective thorns or woody tissue any of the other defenses that are more typical of adult plants yet."

The tiny embryos of many plants can lie huddled inside their seed coats in a state of suspended animation for years before finally springing to life. The oldest known was a date palm that sprouted from a 2000-year-old seed recovered from the ruins of a fortress in Israel.

Taking advantage of data compiled over more than forty years by University of Kentucky seed scientists Jerry and Carol Baskin, who were also co-authors on the study, researchers analyzed seed dormancy data for more than 14,000 species of trees, shrubs, vines and herbs from across the globe.

When the researchers mapped the data onto the seed plant family tree, they found that plants with the ability to regulate the timing of germination in response to environmental cues were more likely to spin off new species.

"Having the capacity to fine-tune their development to the environment seems to be crucial for diversification," de Casas said.

Seed dormancy may help plants colonize new environments by preventing new arrivals from sprouting under conditions or at times of year when the probability of seedling survival is low.

The strategy is as ancient as seeds themselves. "Our results suggest that even the earliest seeds had this ability," de Casas said.

Plants whose seeds have since lost the ability may be more prone to extinction under future climate change, especially if the timing of sprouting is no longer in tune with their environment, he added.

The study appears in the journal New Phytologist.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Charles G. Willis, Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin, Josh R. Auld, D. Lawrence Venable, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Kathleen Donohue, Rafael Rubio de Casas. The evolution of seed dormancy: environmental cues, evolutionary hubs, and diversification of the seed plants. New Phytologist, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/nph.12782

Cite This Page:

National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). "Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140418141238.htm>.
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). (2014, April 18). Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140418141238.htm
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). "Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140418141238.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
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