Western aspen trees commonly carry extra set of chromosomes

Oct 31, 2012
This image shows aspen trees in Utah. Credit: Michael Kuhns

A large proportion of aspen in the western U.S. sport an extra set of chromosomes in their cells, a phenomenon termed triploidy, according to new research published Oct. 31 in the open access journal PLoS ONE by Karen Mock from Utah State University and colleagues at several other institutions. In some areas of southern Utah and Colorado, over 60% of aspen trees are triploid.

Though triploid trees are not uncommon, this genetic anomaly can cause altered including sterility or reduced fertility. Although a triploid aspen clone may reproduce with root suckers, the scientists say, it is unlikely to produce viable seed.

Mapping the rates of triploidy in aspen to latitude, glacial history and regional variation in climate, the researchers found that these rates were highest in unglaciated, drought-prone regions. Wolf, professor in USU's Department of Biology, notes triploid plants often have larger cells, which might affect how plants cope with different conditions. "It is possible triploid aspen can better absorb water than diploids and are therefore better suited to withstand dry conditions, but they may be especially vulnerable to severe drought," he says.

This shows aspen leaves fall colors. Credit: Michael Kuhns

Iconic of the north-western forests, aspen populations have been declining in recent years; their high have been attributed to drought, and a mysterious syndrome termed "Sudden Aspen Decline" (SAD). The new research is based on data collected over more than eight years by the Forest Service, a NASA Biodiversity program, and several researchers and volunteers.

Lead author on the study Mock says, "Though our findings come from many years of study, they provide an important starting point as we go forward. What we're learning will help us understand both the past and the future of aspen in the West."

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

More information: Mock KE, Callahan CM, Islam-Faridi MN, Shaw JD, Rai HS, et al. (2012) Widespread Triploidy in Western North American Aspen (Populus tremuloides). PLoS ONE 7(10): e48406.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048406

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The case of the dying aspens

Dec 12, 2011

Over the past 10 years, the death of forest trees due to drought and increased temperatures has been documented on all continents except Antarctica. This can in turn drive global warming by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide ...

Aspen's 'dandelion' habits challenge mountain evergreens

Feb 22, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The face of high-elevation evergreen forests in Western Canada could be drastically altered as a combination of climate change, human and natural disturbances is making spruce and pine forests ...

Are wolves saving Yellowstone's aspen trees from elk?

Sep 01, 2010

Previous research has claimed that the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 is helping restore quaking aspen in risky areas where wolves prowl. But apparently elk hungry for winter ...

Global warming seen in Alaska's greening

May 30, 2006

A forest ecologist in Alaska is warning that the state is losing its forests to global warming and could soon turn out to be a state of grasslands.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.