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: Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

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

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

Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

6 hours ago

It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat

9 hours ago

The federal government said Wednesday that it is listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, giving new protections to a species that has been nearly wiped out in some areas by the spread of a fungal ...

Mice sing like songbirds to woo mates

10 hours ago

Male mice sing surprisingly complex songs to seduce females, sort of like songbirds, according to a new Duke study appearing April 1 in the Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.

A new crustacean species found in Galicia

10 hours ago

One reason that tourists are attracted to Galicia is for its food. The town of O Grove (Pontevedra) is well known for its Seafood Festival and the Spider Crab Festival. A group of researchers from the University ...

Ants in space find it tougher going than those on Earth

11 hours ago

(Phys.org)—The results of a study conducted to see how well ants carry out their search activities in space are in, and the team that sent them there has written and published the results in the journal ...

Rats found able to recognize pain in other rat faces

12 hours ago

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working in Japan with affiliations to several institutions in that country, has found that lab rats are able to recognize pain in the faces of other rats and avoid them ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.