Scanning the genetic barcode of plant-pollinator interactions

Tracking changes in ecosystems is both vital and extremely difficult. We need to know how differences in climate and land use will affect the success of different species, and what impacts this will have on the wider environment. Plant-pollinator interactions are particularly important for the stability of ecological communities, but how will these relationships be affected in ...
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The winding evolutionary path of mannitol production in algae

Algae may not always look exciting, but this extremely diverse group has a lot of secrets. We are only just beginning to piece together the evolutionary history of these organisms, some of which are not even classified as plants. All algae contain plastids that appear to have been derived from an ancient endosymbiosis between a non-photosynthetic host cell and a photosynthetic ...
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Turning defence into a carnivorous offence in the Cape sundew

Insects landing on the carnivorous Cape sundew (Drosera capensis) don’t stand a chance. The sticky mucilage secreted from their leaves holds the victim in place while the leaf curls over to get a better grip. The plant then releases digestive enzymes that break down the insect so its nutrients can be absorbed into the leaf, supplementing the limited nutrients gained by the plan...
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BABA discovery turns plant defence priming research on its head

Like us, plants have an inbuilt immune system that can be activated in response to disease threats. When a problem is detected, the plant immune system mounts a chemical attack against the invading organisms as well as reinforcing its own defences. The plant defence system can be primed in advance by various compounds that sensitise it to disease, or to other environmental s...
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A radical role in lateral root development

While roots may appear tangled, their architecture is strictly controlled by plants to maximise their uptake of water and nutrients from the soil. Root development is regulated by many hormones and signals, including reactive oxygen species (ROS), which were once considered to be toxic by-products of cellular processes, but are now known to function in a wide range of plant fun...
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From sea to summit: plant colonisation of the land

When plants moved from water onto land, everything changed. Nutrients were scavenged from rocks to form the earliest soils, atmospheric oxygen levels rose dramatically, and plants provided the food that enticed other organisms to expand across the terrestrial world. Building on the success of a meeting in 2010, the New Phytologist Trust organised a multidisciplinary symposiu...
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The evolution of plant evodevo research

Ask a biologist whether the chicken or the egg came first and you’ll probably be lectured on the basics of evolution, hearing how a not-quite-chicken laid an egg containing a mutant (the chicken) with advantageous developmental differences that were passed on to the next generation. This is a simplified example of evolutionary developmental biology (evodevo), the study of the e...
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