Family quarrels in seeds reveal the ways parents and offspring sometimes evolve in conflicting directions

phys.org | 11/20/2018 | Staff
Matty123 (Posted by) Level 3
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Arabidopsis thaliana. Credit: Wikipedia.

It's spring, finally—and in the tree branches a battle is brewing. A robin returns to her nest with an earthworm. Her nestlings all beg, but only one will get this meal. And while Mom has an interest in making sure that all of her babies thrive, each little bird is more selfish. So the baby opens his beak again and again: give me more!

Clash - Flowers - Tree - Study - Washington

Now picture a similar clash playing out in flowers of the same tree. A new study from Washington University in St. Louis reveals the surprising way that family quarrels in seeds drive rapid evolution. Researchers in Arts & Sciences discovered that conflict over the amount of resources an offspring receives from its parent seems to play a special role in the development of certain seed tissues. The study will be published the week of April 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Plant seeds contain tissues that represent three distinct genetic relatives: the mother, the embryo and a bizarre triploid tissue called the endosperm that is involved in nutrient transfer from mother to embryo.

Katherine - Geist - PhD - Candidate - Laboratory

Katherine Geist, a Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory led by David C. Queller, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, and Joan Strassmann, the Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology, used genomic data from the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to illuminate a dispute between these three parties over how much resources should be given to the embryo.

"When we think about how parent-offspring conflict might manifest, we have a tendency to think that there has to be two different parties interacting, a mother and baby," Geist said. Any one baby wants more for itself than for its siblings while the mother wants a fair split among her offspring.

Robin - Nestlings - Beg - Earthworm - Example

Robin nestlings beg for the earthworm, for example. Human babies...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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