To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Experimental Station of Arid Zones (EEZA-CSIC) of Almeria has organized a photographic exhibition to show the peculiarities of the Tabernas Desert and other places and species studied by this research center. A montage with two of my photos has been chosen as the main image of the exhibition. Moricandia arvensis is a plant showing a superb phenotypic change between the spring and summer forms. It clearly illustrates the phenotypic plasticity of this species that inhabit dry areas in the South East of the Iberian Peninsula.
The exhibition has been open to the public between November 15, 2022, and January 31, 2023, at the Museo Casa de la Ciencia in Seville. It can also be visited at this link.
On October 2, 2020, Carolina Osuna Mascaró defended her outstanding doctoral thesis entitled “Hybridization as an evolutionary driver for speciation: A case in the Southern European Erysimum species.”
This Ph.D. Thesis represents excellent news in this COVID-19 pandemic period. This defense is a piece of excellent news in this COVID-19 pandemic period. In fact, the act of dissertation and defense was performed by video conferencing in the face of travel restrictions.
The thesis committee was chaired by Pilar Catalán (University of Zaragoza) and formed by Francisca Robles (University of Granada), Gonzalo Nieto-Feliner (CSIC), Antonio Jesús Muñoz Pajares (University of Granada), and Tobias Züst (University of Bern).
Carolina made a spectacular presentation of her work, exploring with NGS data how hybridization and ploidy determine the complex and reticulated phylogeny of the genus Erysimum in the Baetic mountains.
F. Perfectti (Genetics Department) and Rafael Rubio de Casas (Ecology Department) from the UGR acted as Carolina Ph.D.’s advisers.
Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of a genotype to produce different phenotypes in response to changes in the environment. This is an essential property of living beings but its role in adaptation and acclimatization to environmental changes is not yet fully known.
As part of a truly multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Granada, the Experimental Station of Arid Zones (CSIC) and the Universities of Vigo, Pablo Olavide and Rey Juan Carlos, we have just published an article in the top-ranking journal Nature Communications demonstrating experimentally, both in natural conditions and in the laboratory, the phenotypic plasticity of the flowers of a plant species living in semi-arid environments.
In spring, this species – the crucifer Moricandia arvensis – produces large, lilac-colored, UV-reflecting flowers in the shape of a cross. These flowers attract mainly large, long-tongued bees as pollinators. However, unlike most coexisting species, M. arvensis maintains flowering during the dry, hot summer of the western Mediterranean. This is due to its plasticity in key vegetative traits, including photosynthetic traits, that adjust its metabolism to these extreme temperatures and water deficit conditions. The summer’s high temperatures and longer light hours trigger changes in the expression of more than 625 genes in the flower that lead to these plants to produce different radical flowers. Whereas in spring flowers were large and cross-shaped, in summer they are small and rounded; whereas they were lilac and reflected UV, in summer they are white and absorb UV. These summer flowers attract a different set of pollinators composed of more generalist species. This change in the pollinator set (the pollination niche) allows this plant to reproduce successfully under the challenging summer conditions. Phenotypic plasticity for flower, vegetative, and photosynthetic traits seems to allow M. arvensis to cope with anthropogenic disturbances and climate change.
Gómez JM, Perfectti F, Armas C, Narbona E, González-Megías A, Navarro L, DeSoto L, Torices R (2020). Within-individual phenotypic plasticity in flowers fosters pollination niche shift. Nature Communications 11:4019 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17875-1
Junto con la Prof. Isabel Reche acabamos de publicar en una de las mejores revistas de Ecología y Evolución (Trends in Ecology and Evolution) un artículo sobre la necesidad de desarrollar el pensamiento creativo en los estudiantes de ciencias.
Reche I, Perfectti F. 2020. Promoting individual and collective creativity in science students Trends in Ecology and Evolution 35: 745-748
Un pilar básico de la ciencia es el método científico. Otro, la creatividad. Sin embargo, esta última es una parte de la actividad científica usualmente relegada a un segundo plano, y eso a pesar de que la creatividad es un mecanismo cognitivo evolucionado para la abstracción, la síntesis y la resolución de problemas no recurrentes, habilidades que todos los investigadores reconocen como cruciales para poder desarrollar una exitosa carrera científica.
En esta publicación explicamos como recientes investigaciones han mostrado que la creatividad se puede cultivar manteniendo una mentalidad de crecimiento (¨growth mindset¨) que nos haga aprovechar no solo las diferentes oportunidades sino también los problemas y dificultades que debemos afrontar durante una carrera científica. Considerar los problemas científicos desde diferentes perspectivas haciendo uso del pensamiento lateral y asociativo puede también incrementar la creatividad científica. Igualmente, es importante estar abierto a nuevas oportunidades, ser curioso e inquisitivo y no ignorar los resultados inesperados o incongruentes, pues pueden contribuir a obtener avances científicos por serendipia.
La última parte del artículo se la dedicamos a analizar el papel de la inteligencia y la creatividad colectiva, puesto que actualmente la mayor parte de la ciencia es realizada por grupos de colaboradores de diversos tamaños. Recientes investigaciones han demostrado que los grupos diversos y sin una jerarquía muy intensa presentan mayor inteligencia y creatividad colectiva, lo que redunda en publicaciones científicas que reciben más citas y tienen un mayor impacto.
Esta publicación es un producto del curso “Creatividad, Rigor y Comunicación en Ciencia” que impartimos conjuntamente en el Máster Genética y Evolución.
In collaboration with a international team led by Tobias Züst (Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland) we have published in ELife a paper on the evolution of biochemical defences in Erysimum. In this paper we present the genome assembly of E. cheiranthoides, an important resource to study Erysimum.
Züst T, Strickler SR, Powell AF, Mabry ME, An H, Mirzaei M, York T, Holland CK, Kumar P, Erb M, Petschenka G, Goméz JM, Perfectti F, Müller C, Pires JC, Mueller LA, Jander G. 2020. Independent evolution of ancestral and novel defenses in a genus of toxic plants (Erysimum, Brassicaceae) eLife 9:e51712
Phytochemical diversity is thought to result from coevolutionary cycles as specialization in herbivores imposes diversifying selection on plant chemical defenses. Plants in the speciose genus Erysimum (Brassicaceae) produce both ancestral glucosinolates and evolutionarily novel cardenolides as defenses. Here we test macroevolutionary hypotheses on co-expression, co-regulation, and diversification of these potentially redundant defenses across this genus. We sequenced and assembled the genome of E. cheiranthoides and foliar transcriptomes of 47 additional Erysimum species to construct a phylogeny from 9868 orthologous genes, revealing several geographic clades but also high levels of gene discordance. Concentrations, inducibility, and diversity of the two defenses varied independently among species, with no evidence for trade-offs. Closely related, geographically co-occurring species shared similar cardenolide traits, but not glucosinolate traits, likely as a result of specific selective pressures acting on each defense. Ancestral and novel chemical defenses in Erysimum thus appear to provide complementary rather than redundant functions.
Project MORE: Phenotypic plasticity as a evolutionary driver in Moricandia
In this project, we analyze the genetic basis of the phenotypic plasticity (PP) in some species of genus Moricandia (Brassicaceae), how it expresses in functional and floral traits, and its importance to understanding the ecology and evolution of this plant genus.
Four species inhabit the Iberian Peninsula: three endemic (M. rytidocarpoides, M. foetida, M. moricandioides) and one circum-Mediterranean (M. arvensis). This last species occurs in agricultural, ruderal, and disturbed habitats from south and east of the peninsula, M. moricandioides occurs in semi-deserts from eastern Spain, and the other two species are narrow-endemic desert species from SE Spain. The three Spanish species bloom during a short period during late winter or spring, whereas M. arvensis has an extended flowering spanning from late winter to summer and even autumn. We think that these differences in distribution and flowering phenology are a consequence, at least partially, of the phenotypic plasticity in functional traits displayed by M. arvensis. We also think that an effect of this functional plasticity is the presence of phenotypic plasticity in floral traits and pollination niches.
Moricandia arvensis, contrasting with the other congeneric species, exhibits ample plasticity in floral traits. Whereas spring flowers are large, cross-shaped, and lilac -similar to those of M. moricandioides-, summer flowers are small, rounded, and white -similar to those of the two desert species-. We will determine the genetic basis of this plasticity by studying the effect of environmental factors in gene expression and analyzing regulatory gene networks. We will also explore the impact of these factors in the phenotypic expression by quantifying the reaction norms of floral traits in the field and in experimental conditions.
This phenological plasticity in floral traits may entail that the same plant interacts with different pollinator assemblages during different periods. We will test this idea by comparing the spring and summer pollination niches.
We are using environmental niche modeling to test that the niche of M. arvensis is broader and more diverse than the other congeners’ niche. This larger niche width may be a consequence of M. arvensis modulating its photosynthetic metabolism during different periods.
We think that phenotypic plasticity has played a pivotal role in the adaptation of some Moricandia species to desert conditions. This process could have led to phenotypic divergence among populations adapted to different conditions, favoring the establishment of reproductive barriers and eventually giving rise to plasticity-mediated speciation. Our study will gather valuable information to test this fundamental idea.
The coordinated project “Plasticidad fenotípica como motor evolutivo en Moricandia” (MORE) has been funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (Project CGL2017-86626) and consists of two sub-projects:
“Evolutionary and functional ecology of phenotypic plasticity in the genus Moricandia.”
PIs: José María Gómez and Cristina Armas (Experimental Station of Arid Zones, CSIC)
“Evolutionary and functional genetics of phenotypic plasticity in the genus Moricandia.”
PI: Francisco Perfectti (University of Granada)
Gómez JM, Perfectti F, Armas C, Narbona E, González-Megías A, Navarro L, DeSoto L, Torices R. 2020. Within-individual phenotypic plasticity in flowers fosters pollination niche shift. Nature Communications 11: 4019 BLOG
Nuestra investigación sobre el movimiento de los estambres en Erysimum incanum, publicada en la revista The American Naturalist, está teniendo gran repercusión en los medios. De hecho está clasificado como en el 5% superior de todas las investigaciones analizadas por Altmetric.
Abdelaziz M, Bakkali M, Gómez JM, Olivieri E, Perfectti F. Anther rubbing, a new mechanism that actively promotes selfing in plants. The American Naturalist 193: 140 – 147
El programa ConCiencia de Canal Sur también se ha interesado y ha realizado un reportaje sobre nuestro trabajo. Pulse sobre la imagen para visualizarlo:
El clip de video también se puede ver en este enlace.
Además, periódicos como El País, Ideal, La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, 20 minutos y un largo etcétera se han hecho eco de esta publicación, así como revistas científicas de la importancia de Science.
Is it possible obtain the sequence of a chloroplast genome from a RNA-Seq? Yes, it is. In this paper, we use a software pipeline to produce quality chloroplast genomes from RNA and compare it with genomic DNA-derived cp genomes. Read more
Our paper on anther rubbing is now in press in The American Naturalist. It is expected to appear in the January 2019 issue. In this paper we describe a novel mechanism promoting self-fertilization in the Brassicaceae species Erysimum incanum. Read more
The International PhD School on Modeling Nature has brought together scientists from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of specialisation for two weeks in Granada. The main idea of this school has been to increase awareness of the need for interaction between different areas of knowledge. Read more