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Questions concerning the two competing theories of the development of alternating generations in land plants, the homologous theory and the antithetic theory, have never been fully resolved. In the majority of recent accounts there appears to have been increasing de facto support (if one considers the ontogenetic processes and phylogenetic consequences discussed) for the antithetic theory. However, this preference is usually not plainly stated (as such) in these discussions, and some support has also continued for the homologous theory. The crux of both theories (homologous and antithetic) centers upon how the sporophyte may have originated in the life cycle. One problem with the homologous theory is that it is not made explicit how the development of a dependent sporophyte could have occurred in the life cycle (when the precedent organisms are considered to have had free-living, putatively similar, gametophytes and sporophytes). The antithetic theory, by contrast, offers a definite ontogenetic mechanism or process (retention of the zygote on the gametophyte, delay of zygotic meiosis, with zygotic mitoses occurring first) by which a dependent sporophyte might have originated and persisted, in the context of a life cycle formerly lacking a sporophyte generation. Also, a review of a variety of evidence (morphological, cytological, biochemical, etc.) would appear to lend more support to the antithetic theory than to the homologous theory. In discussing types of algae now known to be most clearly related to land plants (i.e., charophytes, particularly advanced forms), the type of life cycle exhibited by these particular algae (haplontic, with zygotic meiosis; no sporophyte present) suggests that only an antithetic origin of the sporophyte in land plants is actually feasible.
The accumulation of foliar anthocyanins can be consistently attributed to a small range of contexts. Foliar anthocyanin accumulates in young, expanding foliage, in autumnal foliage of deciduous species, in response to nutrient deficiency or ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure, and in association with damage or defense against browsing herbivores or pathogenic fungal infection. A common thread through these causative factors is low photosynthetic capacity of foliage with accumulated anthocyanin relative to leaves at different ontogenetic stages or unaffected by the environmental factor in question.
The ecophysiological function of anthocyanin has been hypothesized as: 1) a compatible solute contributing to osmotic adjustment to drought and frost stress; 2) an antioxidant; 3) a UV protectant; and 4) protection from visible light. Review of the internal leaf distribution of anthocyanin, of experimental evidence using seedlings, and of studies that directly investigated light absorption by anthocyanin and its development relative to recognized processes of photoprotection support the hypothesis that anthocyanins provide protection from visible light.
Plants react to pathogen attack through a variety of active and passive defense mechanisms primarily related to the metabolism of phenolic compounds and oxidative metabolism. Thus the activation of defensive reactions is associated with the increased expression of a great number of genes that encode enzymes involved in the biosynthetic pathway of phenolic compounds. Similarly, the activation of oxidative metabolism precedes the expression of defense genes during plant-pathogen interactions, so both metabolic processes must exert a major function in directing the mechanisms to resist disease. Similarly, it has been suggested that certain fungicides used to mitigate or prevent pathogen attack may be involved in activating certain defensive responses of plants. However, the fact that such substances may influence the key steps of the phenolic and oxidative processes has scarcely been studied. Our work confirms the results proposed by other authors, who suggest that certain wide-spectrum fungicides, in addition to their antibiotic action against pathogens, may be involved in the activation of some defensive responses of plants.
Although our biological knowledge regarding cactus species is thorough in many areas, only in recent years have ecologists addressed their demographic behavior. Here we attempt a first review of the present knowledge on cactus demography, including an analysis of the published information on species with different growth forms and life-history traits. Our review shows that cactus distribution ranges are determined by environmental heterogeneity and by species-specific physiological requirements. Temperature extremes may pose latitudinal and altitudinal distribution limits. At a more local scale, soil properties dramatically affect cactus distribution. Most cacti show a clumped spatial distribution pattern, which may be the reflection of a patchy resource distribution within their heterogeneous environments. The association of cacti with nurse plants is another factor that may account for this aggregated distribution. Many cacti grow in association with these perennial nurse plants, particularly during early life-cycle phases. The shade provided by nurse plants results in reduced evapotranspiration and buffered temperatures, which enhance cactus germination and establishment. In some cases a certain degree of specificity has been detected between particular cactus species and certain nurse plants. Yet some globose cacti may establish in the absence of nurse plants. In these cases, rocks and other soil irregularities may facilitate germination and establishment.
Cacti are slow-growing species. Several abiotic factors, such as water and nutrient availability, may affect their growth rate. Competition and positive associations (i.e., mycorrhizae and nurse–cacti association) may also affect growth rate. Age at first reproduction varies greatly in relation to plant longevity. In general, cactus reproductive capacity increases with plant size. Populations are often composed of an uneven number of individuals distributed in the different size categories. This type of population structure reflects massive but infrequent recruitment events, apparently associated with benign periods of abundant rainfall.
A few cactus species have been analyzed through the use of population-projection matrices. A total of 17 matrices were compiled and compared. Most of them reflect populations that are close to the numerical equilibrium (λ = close to unity). Elasticity analyses revealed that the persistence of individuals in their current size category (“stasis”) is the demographic process that contributes the most to population growth rate. Also, adult categories (rather than juveniles or seedlings) show the largest contributions to λ. No differences were apparent regarding this matter between cacti with different life-forms. This review shows that our knowledge of cactus population ecology is still incipient and rather unevenly distributed: some topics are well developed; for others the available information is still very limited. Our ability to preserve the great number of cactus species that are now endangered depends on our capacity to deepen our ecological understanding of their population processes.
Late Paleozoic pteridosperms displayed various growth habits, including arborescent, leaning, and scrambling and/or climbing forms. This article reviews information gathered to date on vine- and liana-like forms among these plants, based on impression/compression material and cuticle preparations from the Upper Carboniferous and Lower Permian of Europe and North America. Vine- and liana-like pteridosperms used various modes of attachment for both anchorage and support. Such adaptations are very similar (and perhaps analogous) to those that exist in extant angiosperms and include hooks, leaflet tendrils, tendrils terminating in adhesive pads, and aerial adventitious roots. A number of morphological features of scrambling/climbing pteridosperms (e.g., tiny, deeply sunken stomata, marginal water pits, various types of secretory structures, and heterophylly) are considered as they relate to the autecological significance where they may be related to special physiological requirements necessary in the scrambling/climbing growth habit. We hypothesize that scrambling and/or climbing pteridosperms may have played an important role in some of the late Paleozoic coal-swamp forest ecosystems, perhaps even comparable to the role of angiospermous vines/lianas in tropical and subtropical forest ecosystems today.