Genetic fingerprinting explains evolution of tree species unique to Avon Gorge

Apr 14, 2010
Genetic fingerprinting explains evolution of tree species unique to Avon Gorge
Sorbus bristoliensis

( -- The evolution of unique tree species found only in Bristol's Avon Gorge can be explained by new genetic fingerprinting evidence, say scientists from the University of Bristol. Their findings have important implications for the conservation of trees in the gorge.

The research, led by Professor Simon Hiscock from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, examined fifteen types of Sorbus tree, more commonly known as whitebeams, rowan or wild service tree, including three of the rarest trees in Britain.

By studying the trees’ DNA, the researchers showed that these trees are hybridizing with each other. These hybrids then reproduce asexually, in an ongoing process that adds to the diversity of Sorbus trees found in the gorge.

This evolutionary process has implications for the of the rare Sorbus species as all tree types and the process which formed them must be taken into account in any conservation plans.

Professor Hiscock said: “The Sorbus tree breeding system plays a critical role in determining the likelihood of their long-term survival and our findings are already helping guide work being carried out by the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project and the National Trust to aid the conservation of these rare species.

“Conservation strategies for these rare trees should not be simply species-based but rather should aim to conserve the that have been responsible for their formation by conserving all types of Sorbus within the Avon Gorge equally.

“At a time of unprecedented speed of the identification and preservation of such dynamic evolutionary processes will be essential for maintaining biodiversity.”

The research, funded by The Leverhulme Trust and published in the online version of Journal of Molecular Ecology, was carried out by scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Oxford in collaboration with the National Museum of Wales, Bristol City Council and the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project.

Explore further: A European bear's point of view, finally on film

More information:

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Discovery May Speed Tree Breeding, Biotechnology

May 31, 2006

Researchers have discovered the genetic controls that cause trees to stop growing and go dormant in the fall, as well as the mechanism that causes them to begin flowering and produce seeds – a major step forward in understanding ...

Washington-area BioBlitz a success

Jul 12, 2006

A U.S. National Park Service project aimed at collecting biological specimens in the Washington area has uncovered some seldom seen wildlife.

Recommended for you

Sharks contain more pollutants than polar bears

20 hours ago

The polar bear is known for having alarmingly high concentrations of PCB and other pollutants. But researchers have discovered that Greenland sharks store even more of these contaminants in their bodies.

Moth study suggests hidden climate change impacts

Apr 15, 2014

A 32-year study of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that scientists may be underestimating the impacts of climate change on animals and plants because much of the harm is hidden from view.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

( —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.