Wildflower Adapts to Climate Change
When climate changes, plants and animals often are
forced to colonize new areas - or possibly go extinct.
In a study published in the journal Evolution Letters, researchers at the University of Virginia and Washington State University reveal how the colonization of new environments after the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago, fundamentally altered the American bellflower, a wildflower native to Virginia.
The plant is ideal for study because it expanded its range when the climate last warmed and glaciers retreated and learned that migration causes evolution that is both beneficial - making it easier for plants to reproduce - and detrimental - reducing the success of that reproduction.
The Washington State researchers who sequenced the genomes of American bellflowersfound that populations with the longest expansion routes - those farthest from their area of origin -evolved the ability to self-fertilize, but also accumulated mutations that can be harmful to the well-being of the species over time.