Counting reproductive investment

29 April 2018 - By: Jonathan Ingram

Counting reproductive investment

A multi-scale CT-scanning approach demonstrated in orchids has wide application for non-destructive quantitative imaging

Staedler YM, Kreisberger T, Manafzadeh S, Chartier M, Handschuh S, Pamperl S, Sontag S, Paun O, Schönenberger J. 2018. Novel computed tomography-based tools reliably quantify plant reproductive investment. Journal of Experimental Botany 69, 525–535.

Legland D, Devaux M-F, Guillon F. 2018 Quantitative imaging of plants: multi-scale data for better plant anatomy. Journal of Experimental Botany 69, 343–347.

https://academic.oup.com/jxb/article/69/3/343/4822926

New imaging systems have been critically important in advancing our understanding across biology, and at different scales. However, compromises have always been needed, not least in tissue fixation and the usual reliance on 2D views. In a recent paper in Journal of Experimental Botany, Staedler et al. (2018) describe research using computed tomography, with imaging of orchid flowers in 3D at two different scales. This meant almost no specimen destruction (only perianth removal), and no compromise in the field of view, despite the high resolution. Their particular study involved counting tightly aggregated pollen grains and ovules, both present in very large numbers in orchids. This enabled quantification of reproductive investment in ‘deceptive’ and ‘rewarding’ species; there is a balance between the two types, which have very different effects on pollinator behaviour. Although a fascinating system, the methodology also has much wider application, the authors noting the possibility of counting any high-contrast objects inside plant tissues. As might be expected, integration of complex data quickly raises new challenges. These are explained in some detail in the accompanying Insight by Legland et al. – including the management of meta-data from different individuals, obtained using different techniques and visualized at different scales. 

Jonathan Ingram, Commissioning Editor.

Category: Journal of Experimental Botany
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Jonathan Ingram

Jonathan Ingram

Jonathan Ingram is Senior Commissioning Editor/ Science Writer for Journal of Experimental Botany. Jonathan moved from lab research into publishing and communications with the launch of Trends in Plant Science in 1995, then going on to New Phytologist and, in the third sector, Age UK and Mind.