Thursday, December 11, 2008

God Only Knows and Progeny

One of the my students at school is working on the taxonomy of native Tobacco (Nicotiana sp) in South-Eastern Australia. In 1910 it was generally assumed there where two species; a white flowered one that was widespread and abundant and a small greenish/yellow flowered species that was restricted to the drier inland areas. By the 1950's the white flowered species was split into 3; a hairy inland form, a hairy coastal form and a widespread hairless form. Not being content to leave it at this, a few people in the 1980's decided that there was another 'species' lurking around. Why did they think this? It did not behave itself and conform to the 4 described species. Plants are supposed to behave the way humans want them to!

Along comes our student, looking for a project to carry out. At the same time a student at another university was also looking for a project to do. As happens occasionally, both of them decided to work on the same group of plants. You could almost see the daggers being drawn as they planned how to get rid of each other and claim the project all for themselves. Thankfully, another solution soon became apparent. They worked together. One took the genetic side of the project and the other the morphological and ecological side. A pretty good split both were happy with.

Although the results are only preliminary they are fascinating none-the-less! Genetically, the plants are all more or less identical. All the bands on the gels light up in all the same places. Several different methods have been used and all show the same thing. Morphologically and ecologically, there are 5 distinct entities. Each has its own hair type and degree of hairiness. Each grows on a different geology and soil type. Statistical analysis of all of the morphological and ecological traits clearly shows there are 5 distinct entities with a greater than 95 percent accuracy. How could this be? What is going on here?

All life has genes. Genes are what control, amongst other things, what an organism looks like and how it behaves. But is it simply genes that dictate these things? Genetically, humans (Homo sapiens) are more or less identical and belong to the same species. Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are all dogs, and cats (Felis domesticus) are all cats. There is another little thing called gene expression. The environment and a range of other factors can get a gene to either turn on or turn off. As these genes turn on it could dictate hairy or not hairy, or drought tolerant or not drought tolerant. Could this be going on with the Tobacco species in Australia?

I love to talk about inheritance in Cymbidiums. One of my local friends and I spend hours every other week or so pouring over plants looking at how various parents are expressed in the progeny. Between the two of us we grow a shipload of seedlings . As you probably guessed from previous posts there can be a great deal of variation in seedlings of the same cross. Some parents have strong influence, others are barely detectable in the offspring. What causes this variation? They all have the same parents and they all came from the same seed capsule? In the case of Cymbidium hybrids it may simply the various genes combining in different ways but could gene expression play a role as well?

As you will be familiar, I belong to a forum on the internet that deals only with plants in the genus Cymbidium. By internet standards this forum does not contain a large group of people but they are all as nutty as I am about Cymbidiums. We talk about lots of things, generally related to Cymbidium although every now and again we stray off the main topic! Occasionally there is a discussion on the Cymbidium forum that is enlightening and sparks the interest of a wide range of forum members. My last post, on Cymbidium God Only Knows, was in response to a discussion on the forum. The link in that post took you to a couple of pictures of C. God Only Knows 'Geyserland' taken by one of the forum members names Ha Bui. I have never met Ha Bui but from discussion on the net I like him and we have a friendship of sorts. More like pen pals. I am sure we would get along well if we were ever to meet.

My habit of posting 'progeny' blogs has sparked a bit of interest and people are encouraging me to carry on with it. To further this cause, Ha Bui thought it would be great if I posted a blog on Cymbidium God Only Knows (GOK for short) and its progeny. He would supply the photos and I would assemble it and put some words to it. I am not sure where he lives but he is obviously sound asleep while I am at work. After a little to and fro, the pictures all arrived safe and well. Unfortunately they arrived just as I was heading to work this morning. So here I am at 10:30 at night finishing off a joint project between Ha Bui and me. I hope you like it!

Thanks for the photos Ha. I hope you enjoy what has been done with them.

Cymbidium God Only Knows 2N
(photo by Chuckie)


Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland'
(photo by Ha Bui)


Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland'
(photo by Ha Bui)



Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Yowie Flame
(photo by Ha Bui)



Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Paul Robeson
(photo by Ha Bui)



Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Paul Robeson
(photo by Ha Bui)



Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Paul Robeson
(photo by Ha Bui)

Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Paul Robeson
(photo by Ha Bui)


Cymbidium Paul Robeson (Left)
Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Paul Robeson (Right)
(photo by Ha Bui)



Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Hazel Fay
(photo by Ha Bui)


Cymbidium God Only Knows 'Geyserland' X C. Mizuha Okoda
(photo by Paula)

2 comments:

archibear said...

Dear Chuckie

Trom Nicotiana to 'God Only Knows'! Wow, such amazing photographs telling a fantastic tale of genetic diversity. Thanks again. I love reading your stories. Keep 'em coming!

Cheers, Archi

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

Pretty progeny. Also, 'God Only Knows' is one of the best grex names ever.