Monster tumbleweed: Invasive new species is here to stay

phys.org | 3/31/2016 | Staff
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A new species of gigantic tumbleweed once predicted to go extinct is not only here to stay—it's likely to expand its territory.

The species, Salsola ryanii, is significantly larger than either of its parent plants, which can grow up to 6 feet tall. A new study from UC Riverside supports the theory that the new tumbleweed grows more vigorously because it is a hybrid with doubled pairs of its parents' chromosomes.

Findings - Study - Paper - Oxford - University-produced

Findings from the study are detailed in a new paper published in the Oxford University-produced journal AoB Plants.

"Salsola ryanii is a nasty species replacing other nasty species of tumbleweed in the U.S.," said study co-author Norman Ellstrand, UCR Distinguished Professor of Genetics. "It's healthier than earlier versions, and now we know why."

Humans - Organisms - Set - Chromosomes - Mother

Humans are diploid organisms, with one set of chromosomes donated by the mother and one set from the father. Sometimes a mother's egg contains two sets of chromosomes rather than just the one she is meant to pass on. If this egg is fertilized, the offspring would be triploid, with three sets of chromosomes. Most humans do not survive this.

Plants with parents closely related enough to mate can produce triploid offspring that survive but are unable to reproduce themselves. However, a hybrid plant that manages to get two copies from the mother and two from the father will be fertile. Some species can have more than four sets of chromosomes. They can even have "hexaploidy," with six sets of chromosomes.

Scientists - Kind - Advantage - Term - Hybrids

Scientists have long assumed there must be some kind of evolutionary advantage to polyploidy, the term for hybrids that have multiple sets of chromosomes, since it poses some immediate difficulties for the new hybrids.

"Typically, when something is new, and it's the only one of its kind, that's a disadvantage. There's nobody...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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