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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Carnivorous Plant Siblings Reunited
6 September 2002 (All day)
Like siblings, closely related plants can sometimes have very different lifestyles. That proves to be true of two carnivorous plants that live on opposite sides of the Atlantic and in completely different habitats. Despite these differences, new DNA studies show that the Venus flytrap and another plant called the waterwheel are each other's closest kin, a result that rearranges the family tree for carnivorous plants.
Carnivorous plants have come up with a variety of ways to snare their prey: pools of water for drowning unlucky visitors, sticky surfaces that work like flypaper, or “snap traps” that clamp down on morsels in a matter of milliseconds. Waterwheels and Venus flytraps depend on snap traps. Charles Darwin thought the two were closely related. But a century later, researchers looking closely at the morphology of these plants decided that the waterwheel's closest kin was not the Venus flytrap but the terrestrial sundew, which dines on insects caught with its flypaper trap.
Darwin's hunch was right after all, says Kenneth Cameron of the New York Botanical Garden. He and his colleagues compared the DNA from four genes of about a dozen carnivorous plants. They conclude that the world's only two snap-trapping plants really are sibling species, whereas the sundew is no closer than a cousin, sharing a more distant common ancestor, the group reports in the September issue of the American Journal of Botany.
In many ways, this revised family history makes sense, comments Mark Chase, a plant systematist at the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in Surrey, U.K.--even though he once suggested otherwise. And now that this close relationship is “nailed down, it sets the stage for people to ask more intelligent questions about how these mechanisms evolved,” Chase points out.