An international team of scientists has discovered the secret behind inflorescence, the system that governs how plants arrange flowers into branching structures.
Using mathematical models and molecular genetics, the team found the secret behind the evolutionary processes that work together to create inflorescences as different as Forget-Me-Not and Snapdragon.
"This is a unifying theory that provides an explanation for the diversity of inflorescences we see in nature," said Dr. Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, the paper's lead author and a University of Calgary computer scientist.
"It was thought that separate mechanisms explained the many differences in form and development of inflorescences in nature, but now we see that these are just facets of the same mechanism," he said.
Dr. Lawrence Harder, a University of Calgary biologist and co-author of the paper, said, one of their model's key features is that it is able to anticipate regional variations in inflorescence structures and recognize that some developmental patterns are impossible.
"What we've done here is to fit together fundamental science from different disciplines to create this exciting new theory. We can now say with more certainty why we have all this diversity that surrounds us; it's also possible that our approach can be adapted to other fields," said Dr. Harder.
Dr Prusinkiewicz said the mathematical model they have developed has a unique property of producing diverse inflorescence structures with relatively small changes in input, and is a key element of the overall theory.