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New Phytol. 2019 Mar 19. doi: 10.1111/nph.15799. [Epub ahead of print]

The making of elaborate petals in Nigella through developmental repatterning.

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State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, CAS Center for Excellence in Molecular Plant Sciences, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100093, China.
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China.


Elaborate petals are present in many flowering plants lineages and have greatly promoted the success and evolutionary radiation of these groups. How elaborate petals are made, however, remains largely unclear. Petals of Nigella (Ranunculaceae) have long been recognized as elaborate and can thus be an excellent model for the study of petal elaboration. Here, by conducting detailed morphological, micromorphological, anatomical, developmental and evolutionary studies on the petals of Nigella species, we explored the processes, general patterns and underlying mechanisms of petal elaboration. We found that petals of Nigella are highly complex, and the complexity can be reflected at various levels. We also found that evolutionary elaboration of the Nigella petals is a gradual process, involving not only modifications of pre-existing structures but also de novo origination of new characters. Further investigations indicated that the elaboration and diversification of Nigella petals were accomplished by modifying the ancestral trajectory of petal development, a process known as developmental repatterning. Our results not only provide new insights into the development and evolution of elaborate petals, but also highlight the necessity of conducting multiple-level investigations for understanding the processes, patterns and underlying mechanisms of plant evolution.


Nigella ; Evo-Devo; adaptive evolution; developmental repatterning; elaborate petals


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