Thousands of silicified wood fragments were recently collected from the middle Cenomanian of Vienne in western France at less than 10 km away from a historical locality where in 1870 the French geologist Alphonse Le Touzé de Longuemar reported silicified wood. The plant assemblage is very diverse, and includes several species of ferns, conifers, and angiosperms. We describe and discuss the systematic affinities of a new vesselless angiosperm. Many of its characters are shared by extant and fossil Winteraceae. Nevertheless, the absence of uniseriate rays makes the anatomy of these specimens unique. Its combination of characters justifies the establishment of a new genus of vesselless fossil angiosperm wood of uncertain affinity, Sherwinoxylon gen. nov.
Adaptive variation of plant species is best evaluated under environmental gradients. Silybum marianum is a native to the Mediterranean basin, distributed continuously along an aridity gradient from northern Israel to the edge of the Negev desert. To elucidate the adaptive significance of traits associated with proximity to the desert and with increasing levels of aridity, we compared northern populations from the mesic Mediterranean end of the aridity gradient with southern, adjacent to the Negev desert populations, from the arid end. The F1 self-progeny of all populations were evaluated under open field conditions. Plants originated from southern populations grew taller and narrower, completed their life cycle earlier, and produced more abundant, smaller achenes, with a higher content of polyphenols, which grew into smaller seedlings. Correlative analysis revealed a latitudinal cline towards the desert, of a longer life cycle, and fewer, heavier, better germinating achenes, which grew into larger seedlings. We concluded that the proximity to the desert was reflected in the appearance of genotypes with improved chances of survival under arid conditions and with higher contents of polyphenols.
The biochemical composition of Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss (Zygophyllaceae) was analyzed in petioles collected in the summer and winter from plants growing in a natural ecosystem on a southeast-facing slope of the Negev desert. UPLC-QTOF MS based analysis identified season specific sulfur containing phenylpropanoids unreported in plants. Sulfuric-caffeic and -ferulic acid derivatives and isorhamnetin 3-O-(4-sulfate-rutinoside) were measured to accumulate specifically in the summer. The reported identification and accumulation of sulfate containing metabolites during the hot and dry summer can be related to the putative protective role reported for these compounds.
The sparsely distributed Limodorum abortivum is a European-Mediterranean orchid species, which grows on decomposing plant material. Although some chlorophyll-pigmentation is observed in the degenerated scales-shaped leaf and stems regions of the plant, its photosynthetic capacity is assumed to be insufficient to support the full energy requirements of an adult plant. In Israel, L. abortivum shows a patchy distribution patterns in the Galilee, Golan, Carmel and Judean regions. To gain more insights into the physiology and photosynthetic activity of L. abortivum, we analyzed the organellar morphologies, photosynthetic activities the chloroplast-DNA sequence by Illumina-HTS. Microscopic analyses indicated to the presence of mature chloroplasts with well-organized grana-thylakoids in the leaves and stems of L. abortivum. However, the numbers of chloroplasts per cell and the grana ultrastructure density within the organelles were notably lower than those of model plant species and fully photosynthetically-active orchids. The cpDNA of L. abortivum (154,954 bp) encodes 60 proteins, 34 tRNAs and 4 rRNAs. The coding-regions of 24 genes are interrupted by 26 group-II intron-sequences. While many genes related to photosynthesis (RuBisCo, PSI, PSII and cytochrome b6/f subunits) have remained intact in the cpDNA, the majority of the NADH-dehydrogenase (ndh) subunits were either lost or became nonfunctional (i.e. pseudogenized). In agreement with previous reports, the photosynthetic-rates of adult Limodorum plants were found to be very low, further indicating that carbon-assimilation activity is insufficient to support the energy requirements of an adult plant, and may suggest that L. abortivum have adopted nutritional strategies similar to that of mycoheterotrophic orchid species.
Several types of defensive Batesian mimicry seem to be much more common in plants than was historically and is currently considered. It is based either on visual aspects (shape, coloration, and even movement), on odors, and on combinations of both these sensing modalities. Various characters that seem to function as defensive Batesian mimicry, may also simultaneously take part in pollination, physiological functions, or in other defensive mechanisms. The defended models for the visual Batesian mimics in plants belong to several categories: (1) spiny, thorny and prickly plant species, (2) mechanically or chemically defended parts of the same individual plant, or other members of the same species (auto mimicry), (3) colorful and chemically defended plants, (4) dangerous animals (aggressive, toxic), (5) fungal attacks, (6) animal action and animal damage cues, and (7) oozing defensive white latex. Olfactory defended models include: (1) toxic plants, (2) animal alarm pheromones, and (3) animal carrion and feces odors. Many more descriptive, genetic, phylogenetic and experimental studies have to be done in order to better understand the role of defensive Batesian mimicry in plant biology.
Germination behavior of the widespread southeastern Mediterranean shrub Sarcopoterium spinosum was conducted to assess its respond to post-fire cues. Germination experiments were conducted on 10 populations along a rainfall gradient – from productive, fuel-rich and fire-prone mesic Mediterranean populations, as well as from those in arid and fuel-poor environments. Our results indicate that post-fire cues induced germination of S. spinosum only among populations that originated from sites that are prone to wild fires. As wild-fires in this region occur mainly during the long dry season, but rarely ignited by natural factors, the adaptation to human made fires in natural populations of the southeastern Mediterranean environments is discussed.
Plants thriving in harsh desert environments provide a suitable bio-system for unraveling novel mechanisms for survival under seasonal climate change and combination of temperature extremes, low water and nutrient availability and high salinity and radiation levels. The study of the desert plant Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss in its the natural habitat of the Negev desert revealed that stress tolerance is achieved by a plethora of mechanisms (e.g. morphological, molecular and developmental mechanisms), which are probably regulated by multiple genes that act together to bring about tolerance. Of particular interest is the finding that Z. dumosum like other Zygophyllaceae species, most of which inhabit dry and semidry regions of the world, do not possess the repressive epigenetic markers of histone H3 di- and tri-methylated at lysine 9; yet they possess mono methyl H3K9. We discuss the adaptive value of lessening epigenetic constraints with regard to the opportunistic behavior that makes plants most adaptable to change.
Molecular tools provide new insights into phylogenetic relationships of plant species, and by relating phylogenetic groups to their geographical distribution, we can cast light upon the evolution history of plant clades. In the current study, we evaluated the phylogenetic position of the Sinai endemic Brassica deserti (Brassicaceae), later renamed as Erucastrum deserti, based on morphological data and 5.8S rDNA and ITS (Internal Transcribed Spacer) regions. Our results indicate that B. deserti belongs to an East-Mediterranean – Saharo Arabian clade and was not assigned to the core Brassica and Erucastrum clades, respectively, which evolved in the West Mediterranean area. We tentatively conclude that Brassica deserti evolved independently of core Brassica and Erucastrum.