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Congratulations to Eleanor Miller on her publication in Plos Biology

last modified Jul 26, 2017 08:40 AM

Congratulations to Eleanor Miller, 2015 cohort PhD student in the BBSRC DTP Programme, for contributing to the paper Seed size and its rate of evolution correlate with species diversification across angiosperms in Plos Biology.


Species diversity varies greatly across the different taxonomic groups that comprise the Tree of Life (ToL). This imbalance is particularly conspicuous within angiosperms, but is largely unexplained. Seed mass is one trait that may help clarify why some lineages diversify more than others because it confers adaptation to different environments, which can subsequently influence speciation and extinction. The rate at which seed mass changes across the angiosperm phylogeny may also be linked to diversification by increasing reproductive isolation and allowing access to novel ecological niches. However, the magnitude and direction of the association between seed mass and diversification has not been assessed across the angiosperm phylogeny. Here, we show that absolute seed size and the rate of change in seed size are both associated with variation in diversification rates. Based on the largest available angiosperm phylogenetic tree, we found that smaller-seeded plants had higher rates of diversification, possibly due to improved colonisation potential. The rate of phenotypic change in seed size was also strongly positively correlated with speciation rates, providing rare, large-scale evidence that rapid morphological change is associated with species divergence. Our study now reveals that variation in morphological traits and, importantly, the rate at which they evolve can contribute to explaining the extremely uneven distribution of diversity across the ToL.

Read the full paper.

Javier Igea, Eleanor F. Miller, Alexander S. T. Papadopulos and Andrew J. Tanentzap. Plos Biol. 19 July 2017.


Eleanor's paper reports on research conducted during her first rotation project with Dr Andrew Tanentzap in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge. She is currently doing her PhD in the lab of Professor Bill Amos in the Department of Zoology using molecular genetic methods to reconstruct and compare the historic population profiles from a wide range of bird species, with the hope of informing conservation strategies. 

Congrats Eleanor!