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Petal Surface Structures & Pollinator Attraction

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Petal epidermal structures have been shown to influence the optical and tactile properties of the angiosperm flower, and this can have implications for pollinator response. In this project I have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the functions and origins of two cell morphologies; conical cells and diffraction gratings.

It has previously been shown that diffraction gratings are capable of producing floral iridescence, and that this effect is visible to bees. In this project I am investigating the wider implications of this for bee foraging speed and floral identity. I am also looking more closely at the limits of floral gratings in an attempt to quantify the link between structural disorder and pollinator response.

To investigate the origins of conical cells and diffraction gratings I first conducted an SEM survey of ANA -grade flowers. From this I identified Cabomba sp. and Illicium sp. as candidates for the isolation of MIXTA and SHN . These are genes that have been functionally characterised in the eudicots and are known to be involved in the development of conical cells and cuticular striations. In this talk I present the results of overexpression studies in Nicotiana tabacum, which suggest that the CaboMIXTA protein has retained its function as a driver of conical cell formation.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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