Yuval Sapir

Pollination ecology and plant-pollinator relationships are major topics in studies of floral evolution and plant speciation. The genetic basis of floral traits is a key factor in determining the evolutionary response to pollinator-mediated selection. Despite the important role of genetic background in evolutionary studies, it has rarely been incorporated into pollination studies. Extensive literature on the reciprocal effect of pollinators and floral traits on each other exists, yet only a few studies tested the effect of molecular genetic variation of pollination-relevant floral traits on pollinator behavior. Here, I review these studies and propose a framework to study pollinator-mediated selection in an evolutionary genetic context.

Two lines of research are used to study the genetic basis of pollination. The first approach connects candidate genes for floral traits with pollinator behavior. These genes can be modified, and the consequent reaction of the pollinators' behavior is then observed. The second approach uses indirect estimation of the genetic effect by constructing the genetic architecture that underlies floral characteristics, and quantifying its indirect effect on pollinator behavior and consequent measured fitness. This connection between pollinator behavior and genetics of floral traits, accompanied by the effect of pollinators on plant fitness, can be combined into a cascade of effects in a hierarchical statistical model that gives pollination ecology studies an evolutionary insight.

Yair Sapir, Yuval Sapir and Avraham Faust

Over the last century, crosstalk between archaeologists and botanists had focused on the identification of plants remnants, such as charcoal or seeds found in archaeological inventory. Here we demonstrate how botany can play a fundamental role in identifying ancient landscape by using current vegetation. Identifying the loci of ancient human activity is the initial step of any archaeological study, enabling analyses such as settlement patterns, economic structures and land use, as well as devising excavations strategy. While mounds (tells) are standing out of their surroundings and are easily detected, other sites are hidden underground, and require various methods for detection. The cost and intensity of these methods vary, but most are time-consuming, require a team of specialists, and show somewhat limited success, leading archaeologists to seek new methods of site detection. Here, we describe a study of vegetational parameters at Tel ‘Eton (Israel), located in a semi-arid climatic region, where vegetation is mostly herbaceous, mainly comprised of annual plants. We compared above ground biomass, species richness and species composition among four plots in Tel ‘Eton and its surrounding. Two plots were located where ancient settlement found in a previous study, one on top of the mound and one below, where a “lower city” was previously identified. The other two plots were located in similar topographies, namely one on a hill and the other below, but in never-settled areas. While above ground biomass was similar between settled and not-settled plots, species richness was significantly higher in settled plots (40 and 32 species in settled plots, versus 28 and 9 species in non-settled) and species composition was significantly different between them. Our results demonstrate that loci of buried remains of human activity significantly differ from non-settled ones, hence providing the basis for an above ground indirect method of identification of human remains. We propose that floristic sampling of ground-level vegetation may allow archaeologists to identify buried sites, and hence increase the validity of various types of archaeological analyses, such as creating maps of settlements, which rely on the identification of sites without excavating them.

Lidar Sapir-Hen,, Yuval Gadot and Israel Finkelstein

Based on a comprehensive database of livestock frequencies and mortality profiles and on high-resolution relative chronologies, we examined synchronically and diachronically conventional assumptions regarding animal husbandry in the southern Levant in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages and arrived at the following conclusions: 1) A recent study suggests that animal economy in these periods was based on strategies of survival and self-sufficiency. We counter this claim and demonstrate how local self-sufficiency was replaced by specialized economies beginning in Iron Age iib. 2) Contrary to past assumptions, we argue that changes in animal-husbandry strategies were dictated by historical factors rather than by environmental ones. The main shift in livestock husbandry reflects enhanced social complexity during a period of transformation in the territorial-political system from local kingdoms to imperial rule.

Michael Dorman, Pavel Melnikov, Yuval Sapir and Sergei Volis

Oncocyclus irises (Iridaceae) are endangered plants in Israel, yet with high potential for cultivation as ornamental flowers. However, their high seed dormancy level prevents fast development of germplasm for horticultural reproduction. In this paper we describe in-vitro and in-vivo germination experiments with seeds of Oncocyclus irises from Israel. We examined the effects of (1) mechanical scarification and different growing media on in-vitro seed germination; and (2) soil type, covering, and water amount on in-vivo germination. Seeds showed high dormancy, as hardly any seed germinated in the first year after sowing, and only in the second growing season the germinating fraction was considerable (up to 37%), still only under high humidity conditions. We also report an effective in-vitro forced germination protocol, which employs seed scarification. Following these results for in-vivo germination, and based on the protocol developed for in-vitro germination, we recommend two methods for artificial seed germination. For fast germination, good results from a modest quantity of seeds can be obtained by an in-vitro forced germination. For mass seed propagation, when time is not a limiting factor, the in-vivo procedure can be used, using an artificial soil seed bank and treating those seeds during (at least) two seasons under shade and continuous watering.