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: First metatranscriptome of bee gut finds 19 different bacterial phyla

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Flower development in 3D: Timing is the key

Jul 14, 2014

In close collaboration with Jürg Schönenberger and Yannick Städler from the Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research of the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna, 14 developmental stages ...

Transgender algae reveal evolutionary origin of sexes

Jul 08, 2014

Throughout evolution, living things have repeatedly developed physically distinct sexes, but how does this actually happen? A discovery in the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri, has revealed the genetic ...

Pistil leads pollen in life-and-death dance

Jun 20, 2013

Millions of times on a spring day there is a dramatic biomolecular tango where the flower, rather than adorning a dancer's teeth, is the performer. In this dance, the female pistil leads, the male pollen ...

Genome sequence for mother of ash dieback survival

Jun 17, 2013

The first sequence data for a survivor of the ash dieback epidemic has been made available by scientists from The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) as part of a research collaboration led by the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbur ...

Racing to identify species as biodiversity shrinks

Jan 07, 2013

A little more than 39 years ago, on December 28, 1973, the Endangered Species Act was enacted to conserve threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems. To honor this anniversary, Daphne Fautin of ...

Recommended for you

'Killer sperm' prevents mating between worm species

3 hours ago

The classic definition of a biological species is the ability to breed within its group, and the inability to breed outside it. For instance, breeding a horse and a donkey may result in a live mule offspring, ...

Rare Sri Lankan leopards born in French zoo

6 hours ago

Two rare Sri Lankan leopard cubs have been born in a zoo in northern France, a boost for a sub-species that numbers only about 700 in the wild, the head of the facility said Tuesday.

Japan wraps up Pacific whale hunt

7 hours ago

Japan announced Tuesday that it had wrapped up a whale hunt in the Pacific, the second campaign since the UN's top court ordered Tokyo to halt a separate slaughter in the Antarctic.

Researchers uncover secrets of internal cell fine-tuning

7 hours ago

New research from scientists at the University of Kent has shown for the first time how the structures inside cells are regulated – a breakthrough that could have a major impact on cancer therapy development.

User comments : 0