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Trends Ecol Evol. 1987 Dec;2(12):354-9. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(87)90135-2.

Heavy metal tolerance in plants: A model evolutionary system.

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  • 1Mark Macnair is at the Dept of Biological Sciences, University of Exeter, Hatherly Laboratories, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK.


Evolved tolerance to toxic concentrations of heavy metals in plants inhabiting spoil heaps of mines is a well known phenomenon that has been the subject of much research in the last two decades. These plants are useful models for studying processes involved in the early stages of the speciation of edaphic endemics. Recent work has revealed the importance of several phenomena in the differentiation of tolerant populations, including natural selection, founder effects and 'hitch-hiking', and has demonstrated the early evolution of morphological differentiation and reproductive isolating mechanisms. Further studies of the biochemistry and molecular biology of heavy metal tolerance will help to show why some plant groups, such as Agrostis, are far more prone to evolve tolerance than others.

Copyright © 1987. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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