A doctoral student has identified a long-overlooked pattern in how plants evolved their equivalent of lungs — tiny pores on the surfaces of leaves called stomata. Using specialized imaging techniques and a plant species not often found in laboratories, researchers say this discovery reveals a key difference in the evolution of plants that live on land versus those that can grow in water.
“I felt this is really interesting, this was a big surprise to me. I remember well that after observation in the microscope room on the basement floor, I rushed up the stairs to tell Dr. Koga about my discovery,” recalled first-year doctoral student Yuki Doll, studying in the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Science under the supervision of Assistant Professor Hiroyuki Koga.
“Of course, I and any scientist can see that the stomata are different, but it is easy for us to just ignore it, not sense any pattern. When I heard about Doll-kun’s discovery, I was also very excited and discussed with him that we should delve into this subject,” remarked Koga. (Kun is the Japanese honorific suffix attached to junior men’s names.)
When stomata are open, carbon dioxide, oxygen and water vapor can move in and out of the leaf for photosynthesis and respiration. Artificially manipulating the number of stomata is one potential way to keep crops healthy in a changing climate.
The UTokyo team was studying multiple types of plants in the genus Callitriche, which includes both terrestrial and aquatic species.