Short Plants Evolve Faster than Tall Ones

Lab Report

By: Ann Northrup

Ann Northrup spent her undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in microbiology….

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Rates of genetic evolution vary in all parts of the tree of life, but causes for the variation are not well understood. Recent work has shown that in plants, within any given lineage, there is a strong correlation between plant height and rate of evolutionary change of the nuclear and chloroplast DNA. The explanation for this correlation is the “rate of mitosis” hypothesis. In other words, the rate of genome copying is greater in faster growing short plants than it is in tall plants such as in many trees. The more often a genome is copied, the greater the opportunity for a copying error to take place, a mutation. The study suggests that shorter, faster growing plants will be better equipped to adapt to climate changes.

Nature Communications 4, article number 1879