As global climate change has an impact on pollinator diversity, it is important to understand what makes a flower attractive to pollinators as this underpins a plant’s reproductive success. To address this, researchers at Kew are investigating what role different genetic traits play in enhancing a flower’s attractiveness.
Polyploidy and plant evolution
One particular trait that is being studied is polyploidy, which refers to the presence of more than two complete sets of chromosomes in the cell nucleus – this is a very frequent phenomenon across flowering plants. We, as human beings have 46 chromosomes in each cell, made up of two sets of 23 chromosomes, one from each parent. We are therefore said to be diploid. However, in plants it is common to find species with multiple copies of each chromosome in the nucleus – and such plants are said to be polyploid. This is currently seen as one of the main drivers of plant evolution, enabling adaptation and leading to the rise of new species.
Most crop plants we know today are polyploids. Polyploidy is, strictly speaking, a genetic feature but its impact at the genomic and cellular level (e.g. alterations in gene functioning and chemical biosynthetic pathways) have effects at the whole plant level which can lead to enhanced plant survival or increased yield. MORE
Header Image: Kew.