This summer I will be working in Rausher Labs. Much of their research deals with different evolutionary biology concepts, and their main focus is plants. My project specifically is looking at species boundaries, which I am just now starting to wrap my head around. Since middle school, many of us were told that if ” Two organisms cannot make viable offspring, they are from two different species”. However, the lines are more blurred than that. There are examples (especially in the plant world) that prove this wrong. I work with one of the biggest examples everyday in the lab, morning glories.
When you look up the scientific names of many plants, like your common maple, or sunflower, you’ll find the full scientific name including the species of the plant However, it is a little harder to find a clear scientific name for morning glories. This is because different kinds of morning glories are constantly interbreeding. So now they have just became a tangled mess of what used to be distinct species. That is not the only issue. These hybrids can make viable offspring as well, so the previous rule I learned in high school has been made blurry.
The goal of the experiment is to see what specific species boundaries there are for morning glories. Also to see if there are any specific phenotypes that are always passed to hybrids and if there are any that are rarely passed down successfully. We are doing this by growing different kinds of morning glories in the greenhouse, many of them hybrids made from other plants we grew in the lab. Everyday we collect seeds, detangle, an score the flowers of each plant. We are looking at the limb and throat color of the plants, specifically we are looking to see if the limb and throat colors turn out white, or if the bloom pink limbed and purple throated flowers.