Scientists discover environmental factors linked to sex ratio of plants

Jul 22, 2008

Environmental factors can transform the ratio of females to males in plant populations according to new research out of the University of Toronto.

The study conducted by Ivana Stehlik, a lecturer, Jannice Friedman, a PhD candidate, and Spencer Barrett, a professor, involved a novel approach using genetic markers (known DNA sequences) to identify the sex of seeds.

The team investigated six natural populations of the wind-pollinated herb Rumex nivalis in the Swiss Alps and mapped the distance between females and neighbouring males. They then measured the amount of pollen captured by female flowers and collected seeds from the plants when they were mature.

"The plant has strongly female-biased flowering sex ratios in these populations. We wanted to find out the mechanism causing the bias," said Barrett. "We found that where there were more males surrounding females, females captured more pollen, matured more seed and produced more strongly female-biased offspring."

The authors suggest that when females capture large amounts of pollen, female-determining pollen tubes out-compete male-determining pollen tubes to fertilize the single ovule in each flower.

Barrett leads a world-renowned research group working on the genetics and evolution of plant reproduction. His pioneering work has had a profound influence on the understanding of biological invasions, weed management strategies and conservation biology. "Our results demonstrate for the first time that demographic aspects of the mating environment of plants can influence the sex ratios of plants females produce," added Barrett.

Source: University of Toronto

Explore further: PacifiCorp Energy pleads guilty in bird deaths

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Apple wins class-action lawsuit over iPod prices

41 minutes ago

A federal jury decided Tuesday that Apple didn't compete unfairly when it sold music players and songs with copy-protection software that was incompatible with rival devices and music from competing online ...

Boeing 737 factory to move to clean energy

42 minutes ago

Boeing said Tuesday it plans to buy renewable energy credits to replace fossil-fuel power at the factory in Washington state where it assembles its 737 commercial airplanes.

Suomi NPP satellite watching Cyclone Bakung's remnants

53 minutes ago

The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Bakung continue to linger in the Southern Indian Ocean, and NOAA-NASA's Suomi NPP (Suomi NPP) satellite is one satellite keeping an eye on the storm for possible re-development.

Recommended for you

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

17 hours ago

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

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.