Thursday, November 17, 2011

This caught my eye, and you should read it too!

Allen MacNeill is a professor of biology at Cornell University. He has a blog which recently made the following comment regarding new species.

At reasonably low concentrations, copper is toxic to many plant species. However, several plants have been seen to develop a tolerance to this metal (Macnair 1981). Macnair and Christie (1983) used this to examine the genetic basis of a postmating isolating mechanism in yellow monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus). When they crossed plants from the copper tolerant "Copperopolis" population with plants from the nontolerant "Cerig" population, they found that many of the hybrids were inviable. During early growth, just after the four leaf stage, the leaves of many of the hybrids turned yellow and became necrotic. Death followed this. This was seen only in hybrids between the two populations. Through mapping studies, the authors were able to show that the copper tolerance gene and the gene responsible for hybrid inviability were either the same gene or were very tightly linked. These results suggest that reproductive isolation may require changes in only a small number of genes.

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