Mystery of mutant toadflax solved at last
Thursday 09 September 1999
The toadflax plant, Linaria vulgaris, normally produces asymmetrical flowers, but occasionally a mutant form grows symmetrical flowers, with identical upper and lower petals. When the great 18th-century Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus discovered the mutant flower in 1742, he thought it must be a new species, even though the rest of the plant was identical to typical toadflax.
Linnaeus called the flower Peloria, Greek for "monster", not because it was ugly but because it had monstrous implications for the belief in the immutability of species.
"This is certainly no less remarkable than if a cow were to give birth to a calf with a wolf's head," he wrote.
Enrico Coen and his student Pilar Cubas, of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, have found the genetic explanation.
The Lcyc gene changes as a result of having extra organic substances called methyl groups added to its chemical structure, according to research published in the journal Nature. It results in structural changes in the way the flower develops.
Linnaeus, the founding father of the binomial system of biological classification, concluded that the mutant flower must have resulted from some sort of transformation of the common toadflax into a new species.
Professor Coen said: "This is the first time that a natural modification of this kind has been found to be inherited, suggesting that this kind of change may be more important for natural genetic variation and evolution than has previously been suspected."
"It provides a molecular understanding of what people have been doing for a long time about flowers, by taking them from nature and propagating them in their garden.
"It shows that many of the flowers grown in gardens result from specific changes to the genes in the wild," he added.
- 1 Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
- 2 Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
- 3 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 4 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
- 5 Carol Vorderman reveals she is 'covered in burns' after she fell off her treadmill while running naked
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...
£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...
£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...