Distantly Related Conifers Share a Surprising Number of Cold-Tolerance Genes

Spruce and pine and have relied on similar genetic toolkits for climate adaptation despite millions of years of evolution.

Ben Andrew Henry
Dec 1, 2016

Snowed In: Spruce and pine parted evolutionary ways long ago, but their cold-adaptation genes are surprisingly similar. SALLY AITKEN

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN EVOLUTION

The Paper
S. Yeaman et al., “Convergent local adaptation to climate in distantly related conifers,” Science, 353:1431-33, 2016.

Family Trees
Related species sometimes adapt to similar environments with mutations in the same genes. But convergent evolution is usually observed in species that recently diverged or in traits that involve only a few genes and therefore may have fewer possible evolutionary paths. New research from the snowy North tells a different story.

Winter Specialists
Interior spruces (Picea glauca and P. engelmannii) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) each have hundreds of genes that contribute to one outcome: surviving the brutal winters of Canada and the northern U.S. “You would think that there would be many ways to get the same phenotype” with so many...

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