Unlike moths and butterflies that are often brilliantly colored to warn potential predators that they carry toxins, flowers and the fruits they produce have brilliant colors and unusual shapes because they want to attract the attention of pollinators and frugivores who will disperse their pollen and seed, thus guaranteeing the next generation. In their work, Dr. Endress and his colleagues found that the sizes and positioning of the anthers facilitates pollen collection by buzz-pollinating bees. The male floral structures, anthers, release the pollen gradually, like tiny gumball dispensers. All of these characteristics--size, shape, placement, and timingmay be controlled by networks of genes as well as by regulatory sequences that do not encode proteins. Slight changes in these networks or in the non-coding sequences can change the developmental pattern of a flower and thus its morphologyeither dooming it if its pollinators can no longer fit properly or guaranteeing the success of the species if it acquires new pollinators. This type of information is becoming ever more critical as we struggle to understand, maintain, and modify the plant and pollinator systems that we depend on for life.
Evo-Devo, or the linking of evolution and development is a shift in the paradigm of how organisms evolved and diversified. In a symposium at the joint annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists and the Botanical Society of America (July 7-11), Dr. Peter Endress of the Institute of Systematic Botany at the University of Zurich will present his work on the functional architecture of flowers and the role of development in floral evolution.
Charles Darwin, who observed closely the productions of breeders of pigeons, dogs, and flowers, understood that explaining the evolution and diversity of living organisms, from mosses to elephants, would require an understanding of development. In his presentation at a joint ASPB and BSA symposium on evolutiona
Contact: Brian Hyps
American Society of Plant Biologists