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Title: Ecological and evolutionary significance of crassulacean acid metabolism in the montane genus Puya (Bromeliaceae)
Author: Beltran, Juan David
ISNI:       0000 0004 6501 1536
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Little is known about the evolution and ecology of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) in the genus Puya Molina. CAM is a photosynthetic pathway typified by nocturnal CO2 fixation and is regarded as a water-saving mechanism. Puya is one of the largest genera in the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae), with 226 species distributed across the Andes to Costa Rica and the Guiana Shield, and from sea level to 5000 m. About 21% of Puya species are CAM and at least 10 of these CAM species occur above 3000 m. The main aim of this thesis was to uncover new evidence to understand the ecophysiology and evolution of CAM in the montane genus Puya. The prevalence of CAM and C3 species in Puya was estimated from carbon isotope values of 161 species. The climatic niche of constitutive CAM species and C3 species of Puya was modelled using georeferenced herbarium records and climatic variables to evaluate the differences between their niches. The evolution of CAM in Puya was investigated by reconstructing the ancestral photosynthetic pathway on an AFLP phylogeny and by studying positive selection in the genes encoding the key enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC). The coldresistance and the thermal lability of PEPC was investigated for high- and low- elevation CAM species of Puya to explore the potential molecular adaptations of CAM plants in high-elevation environments. The present study concludes that the common ancestor of Puya was a cold-resistant plant. This is suggested to explain the prevalence of Puya at highelevations. The evolution of CAM was correlated with changes in the climatic niche, and occurred multiple times in Puya. These multiple origins were not independent because the common ancestor of Puya was likely to be a weak CAM plant (based on a diagnostic Arg679 residue in the PEPC sequence). It is likely that populations of P. chilensis gained CAM by introgression with P. alpestris ssp. zoellneri. Weak CAM photosynthesis and coldxv resistance allowed Puya to colonise the Andes from the south to the north; and, in the process, constitutive CAM and C3 evolved. The later-evolving species in the genus are suggested to have lost their capacity for CAM as they radiated into more mesic habitats during their colonisation of the northern Andes.
Supervisor: Smith, J. Andrew C. ; Harris, Stephen A. Sponsor: Colciencias
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biochemistry ; Evolution ; CAM photosynthesis ; Ecology ; Puya ; South America ; Crassulacean acid metabolism ; Andes ; CAM