Colin Osborne

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The evolution of grasses using C4 photosynthesis and their sudden rise to ecological dominance 3 to 8 million years ago is among the most dramatic examples of biome assembly in the geological record. A growing body of work suggests that the patterns and drivers of C4 grassland expansion were considerably more complex than originally assumed. Previous(More)
Plants with the C4 photosynthetic pathway dominate today's tropical savannahs and grasslands, and account for some 30% of global terrestrial carbon fixation. Their success stems from a physiological CO2-concentrating pump, which leads to high photosynthetic efficiency in warm climates and low atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Remarkably, their dominance of(More)
The widespread appearance of megaphyll leaves, with their branched veins and planate form, did not occur until the close of the Devonian period at about 360 Myr ago. This happened about 40 Myr after simple leafless vascular plants first colonized the land in the Late Silurian/Early Devonian, but the reason for the slow emergence of this common feature of(More)
Experimental evidence demonstrates a higher efficiency of water and nitrogen use in C(4) compared with C(3) plants, which is hypothesized to drive differences in biomass allocation between C(3) and C(4) species. However, recent work shows that contrasts between C(3) and C(4) grasses may be misinterpreted without phylogenetic control. Here, we compared leaf(More)
• Grasses rank among the world's most ecologically and economically important plants. Repeated evolution of the C(4) syndrome has made photosynthesis highly efficient in many grasses, inspiring intensive efforts to engineer the pathway into C(3) crops. However, comparative biology has been of limited use to this endeavor because of uncertainty in the number(More)
The C4 photosynthetic pathway uses water more efficiently than the C3 type, yet biogeographical analyses show a decline in C4 species relative to C3 species with decreasing rainfall. To investigate this paradox, the hypothesis that the C4 advantage over C3 photosynthesis is diminished by drought was tested, and the underlying stomatal and metabolic(More)
C(4) photosynthesis has evolved more than 60 times as a carbon-concentrating mechanism to augment the ancestral C(3) photosynthetic pathway. The rate and the efficiency of photosynthesis are greater in the C(4) than C(3) type under atmospheric CO(2) depletion, high light and temperature, suggesting these factors as important selective agents. This(More)
Many questions in evolutionary biology require an estimate of divergence times but, for groups with a sparse fossil record, such estimates rely heavily on molecular dating methods. The accuracy of these methods depends on both an adequate underlying model and the appropriate implementation of fossil evidence as calibration points. We explore the effect of(More)
Grasses using the C(4) photosynthetic pathway dominate grasslands and savannahs of warm regions, and account for half of the species in this ecologically and economically important plant family. The C(4) pathway increases the potential for high rates of photosynthesis, particularly at high irradiance, and raises water-use efficiency compared with the C(3)(More)
C4 photosynthesis affords higher photosynthetic carbon conversion efficiency than C3 photosynthesis and it therefore represents an attractive target for engineering efforts aiming to improve crop productivity. To this end, blueprints are required that reflect C4 metabolism as closely as possible. Such blueprints have been derived from comparative(More)