One of the most uncommon and understudied, but among the most fascinating interactions between animals and plants, is the pollination of flowers by non-flying mammals. Animals involved mainly include marsupials, primates and rodents. Although this phenomenon was discovered in the beginning of the 20th century, only in the last few years evidence accumulated that plants evolved specific traits in adaptation to pollinating non-flying mammals. Such plants are found in several different plant families on different continents, mainly in Southern Africa and Australia. However, pollination by non-flying mammals is known also from Asia, the Neotropics, tropical Africa and Madagascar. Only recently observation techniques have been improved and non-flying mammal pollination has been discovered for further plant species, regions and animal groups (e.g. elephant-shrews). Nevertheless, research about this intriguing phenomenon is still at an early descriptive stage. This symposium will gather scientists to present and discuss experimental approaches, the importance of floral scent for attracting flower visitors, the behaviour of the flower visitors and their importance for the plants’ reproduction as well as the evolution of the non-flying mammal pollination system.
Several plant lineages evolved the ability to obtain carbon from the mycorrhizal fungi in their roots. These mycoheterotrophic plants provide outstanding opportunities for studying convergent evolution (representing at least 47 losses of photosynthesis in land plants, likely far exceeding the number of origins of parasitic plants), plant-microbe interactions (typically they indirectly parasitize green plants through shared mycorrhizal fungi), conservation biology (there are many rare and poorly known lineages), plant morphology and anatomy (unusual reductions in vegetative form; adaptations for plant-fungal interactions; floral modifications), evolution, systematics and phylogeny (e.g., modification, reduction and rate elevation in plastid and other plant genomes), and biogeography (disjunct distributions). Crucial developments in the fields of ecology and evolution have led to significant progress in our understanding of mycoheterotrophic plants. Here we pull together recent insights on these fascinating organisms in an intregrative symposium on their biology.
Inrecent decades, with the advances of new technologies, many genomes of economiccrop plants (several tens of them) have been sequenced and assembled. Theavailability of these sequenced genomes allows us to conduct more explicit andcutting-edge investigations that enable scientists to effectively deciphermolecular mechanisms related to the domestication and improvement of these cropplants. For example, upon assembly and analysis in allotetraploid genome ofextensively grown Upland cotton () with componentdiploid genomes of its probable progenitors, cultivated cotton ()and wild cotton (), differential regulation of plant hormoneethylene and cellulose biosynthesis were observed on the cell wall expansion ofsingle-celled natural fibers. Furthermore, comparative analysis of the cacao () genome with cotton and other genomes revealed close evolutionaryrelationships with the common ancestral paleopolyploid origin among many plantspecies. Likewise, the coffee genome provided insight into the convergentevolution of caffeine biosynthesis, the grapevine genome revealed ancestralhexaploidization while the oilseed genome was used forstudying early allopolyploid evolution. In addition, the peach () genome helped identify unique patterns of genetic diversity,domestication and evolution. The two whole genome duplication events in thepalaeopolyploid soybean () were found to be related withsignificant gene diversification, gene loss as well as chromosomerearrangements. Assembly of the cucumber () genomeresulted in unraveling a new biochemical pathway leading towards bitness, aunique taste from cucumber. Besides these and many more published draft genomesof economic crop plants, we welcome reports of any other unfinished butemerging genomes of economic importance.
Aboveground and belowground components are tightly linked via flow of energy and nutrients between plants and soil organisms. The interactions between aboveground and belowground processes determine ecosystem processes and properties. Terrestrial ecosystems are undergoing multiple global changes. It is unclear how global changes could alter the interactions between aboveground and belowground processes and consequently ecosystems’ ability to provide goods and services. Integrated researches of aboveground and belowground processes are therefore needed to achieve a comprehensive understanding of ecosystem dynamics under global changes. In this symposium, speakers will collectively address how aboveground-belowground interactions under changing environments affect the key ecological processes, such as plant and soil microbial biodiversity, ecosystem productivity, nutrient cycling and soil organic carbon stability. The researches presented in this symposium will cover observational studies, manipulation experiments and model analyses. Speakers have been chosen to mix of well-established scientists and young scientists across the world. Through the participation of both speakers and audiences, we hope to foster the discussion on the unknowns and future research directions on aboveground-belowground linkages.
The Compositae (Asteraceae) are the largest and most diverse flowering plant family (ca. 24,000 spp/ 1,700 genera). Members occur worldwide in all but the most extreme habitats, reaching their greatest numbers in arid and temperate regions and on tropical and subtropical mountains. While many species have restricted ranges in areas that are threatened with high extinction rates (i.e., Pacific Islands, Cape Floristic Region, Tibetan Plateau), the family also includes some of the world’s most noxious weeds (i.e., dandelion, ragweed, thistle) some of which cost the billions (in USD) annually. Numerous species produce novel secondary compounds that have many industrial and biomedical uses and others have been domesticated for food. In 2009 a comprehensive book was published that resolved some issues but left many questions unanswered, however, it triggered substantial new research based on new fossil and morpholgoical evidence including phyloginies and character evolution studies based on next generation methods such as gene target enrichment. It has been hypothesized that Compositae originaled in South America and experienced a subsequent explosion in Africa afterward moving across the globe. But details of how members of the family arrived in Africa, and when taxa moved out of Africa to Asia and then reached most parts of the earth are currently being tested with new phylogenies and factors that may drive their evolution are being investigated. Resolving the history of this large and complicated family is critical to our efforts to understand the assembly of global biodiversity. This symposium will bring together the current state of our knowledge on the phylogeny, biogeography and evolution of Compositae and help develop a strategy for future research.