51 m-yrs-old genetic secret to Darwin’s theory unlocked
Scientists have unlocked a 51.7-million-year-old genetic secret to a landmark theory proposed by English naturalist Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago.
Researchers have identified the cluster of genes responsible for reproductive traits in the Primula flower.
Darwin hypothesised that some plant species with two distinct forms of flower, where male and female reproductive organs were of differing lengths, had evolved that way to promote out-crossing by insect pollinators.
His ground-breaking insight into the significance of the two forms of flower known as ‘pins’ and ‘thrums’ coined the term ‘heterostyly’, and subsequent studies contributed to the foundation of modern genetic theory.
Now scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK have identified exactly which part of these species’ genetic code made them that way, through an event that occurred more than 51 million years ago.
Supergenes are clusters of closely-associated genes which are always inherited together as a unit and allow complex biology to be controlled.
Researchers worked with the Earlham Institute in the UK to map the plant’s genes and sequence the Primula genome to find the specific gene cluster responsible for creating the differing flower morphs.