The Origins of C4 Grasslands: Integrating Evolutionary and Ecosystem Science

  title={The Origins of C4 Grasslands: Integrating Evolutionary and Ecosystem Science},
  author={Erika J Edwards and Colin P. Osborne and Caroline A. E. Str{\"o}mberg and Stephen A. Smith},
  pages={587 - 591}
Grassland Emergence The evolution of the C4 photosynthetic pathway from the ancestral C3 pathway in grasses led to the establishment of grasslands in warm climates during the Late Miocene (8 to 3 million years ago). This was a major event in plant evolutionary history, and their high rates of foliage production sustained high levels of herbivore consumption. The past decade has seen significant advances in understanding C4 grassland ecosystem ecology, and now a wealth of data on the geological… 

C4 Photosynthesis Promoted Species Diversification during the Miocene Grassland Expansion

With the largest phylogeny yet compiled for grasses, an example of a key physiological innovation that promoted high diversification rates is presented, suggesting that the ‘C4 effect’ is complex and derives from the interplay of the C4 syndrome with other factors.

Evolution of Grasses and Grassland Ecosystems

The evolution and subsequent ecological expansion of grasses (Poaceae) since the Late Cretaceous have resulted in the establishment of one of Earth's dominant biomes, the temperate and tropical

A global database of C4 photosynthesis in grasses.

C4 photosynthesis is an excellent model for investigating complex trait evolution, because of the broad knowledge base describing its biochemical basis, evolutionary history, and ecological interactions.

Climatic Controls on C4 Grassland Distributions During the Neogene: A Model-Data Comparison

Grasslands dominated by taxa using the C4 photosynthetic pathway evolved on several continents during the Neogene and Quaternary, long after C4 photosynthesis first evolved among grasses. The

The role of fire in Miocene to Pliocene C4 grassland and ecosystem evolution

Modern grasslands are dominated by grasses that use the C4 photosynthetic pathway, and were established about 8 million years ago. A sediment record suggests that in southwestern Africa, the

Grassland fire ecology has roots in the late Miocene

A synoptic terrestrial record of fire and vegetation change in this region indicates that increased fire occurrence accompanied two stages of landscape opening, and indicates that a dynamic fire–grassland feedback system was both a necessary precondition and a driver for grassland ecology during the first emergence of C4 grasslands.

Opposite macroevolutionary responses to environmental changes in grasses and insects during the Neogene grassland expansion

Opposition evolutionary dynamics in a clade of African grasses and associated stemborers are shown, opposing the hypothesis about grasslands as a 'cradle' of herbivore diversity and calling into question the role of grasslandsAs a universal adaptive cradle.

The Neogene transition from C3 to C4 grasslands in North America: assemblage analysis of fossil phytoliths

Abstract The rapid ecological expansion of grasses with C4 photosynthesis at the end of the Neogene (8-2 Ma) is well documented in the fossil record of stable carbon isotopes. As one of the most

The stable isotope ecology of mycalesine butterflies: implications for plant–insect co-evolution

It is demonstrated that the feeding history of mycalesine larvae on C3 and C4 grasses can be traced by analysing δ13C in the organic material of the adult exoskeleton, while values of δ18O in the adult reflect atmospheric humidity during larval development.



Phylogenetic analyses reveal the shady history of C4 grasses

It is shown that grasses are ancestrally a warm-adapted clade and that C4 evolution was not correlated with shifts between temperate and tropical biomes, and that the evolution of cold tolerance in certain C3 lineages is an overlooked innovation that has profoundly influenced the patterning of grassland communities across the globe.

Nature's green revolution: the remarkable evolutionary rise of C4 plants

  • C. OsborneD. Beerling
  • Environmental Science
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2005
It is suggested that future research must redress the substantial imbalance between experimental investigations and analyses of the geological record, which finds important roles for regional climate change and fire in South Asia, but no obvious environmental trigger for C4 success in North America.

Cenozoic Expansion of Grasslands and Climatic Cooling

Mountains, ocean currents, forests, and swamps have played an important role in regulating global climate for hundreds of millions of years, but the truly novel event of the Cenozoic was the

The age of the grasses and clusters of origins of C4 photosynthesis

A phylogeny of the grass family is presented, based on nuclear and chloroplast genes, and calibrated with six fossils, to find that the common ancestor of thegrasses (the crown node) originated in the upper Cretaceous, coinciding with a reduction in global CO 2 levels.

The evolution of C4 photosynthesis.

  • R. Sage
  • Environmental Science
    The New phytologist
  • 2004
Gene duplication followed by neo- and nonfunctionalization are the leading mechanisms for creating C4 genomes, with selection for carbon conservation traits under conditions promoting high photorespiration being the ultimate factor behind the origin of C4 photosynthesis.

Oligocene CO2 Decline Promoted C4 Photosynthesis in Grasses

Decoupled taxonomic radiation and ecological expansion of open-habitat grasses in the Cenozoic of North America.

  • C. Strömberg
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 2005
Data from 99 Eocene to Miocene phytolith assemblages from the North American continental interior, constituting the only high-resolution mid-Cenozoic record of grasses, show that open-habitat grasses had undergone considerable taxonomic diversification by the earliest Oligocene but that they did not become ecologically dominant in North America until 7-11 million years later.

What Limits Trees in C4 Grasslands and Savannas

The extent of this climate mismatch has been revealed by physiologically based global vegetation simulations and by large empirical data sets, and the implication is that ecosystem structure and function depend on demographic transitions.

The Early Origins of Terrestrial C4 Photosynthesis

AbstractThe C4 photosynthetic pathway is a series of structural and biochemical modifications around the more primitive C3 pathway that improve the photosynthetic efficiency under specific climatic

The impact of Miocene atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuations on climate and the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems

The authors' data point to a long-term coupling between atmospheric CO2 and climate, which can be linked to major changes in Miocene terrestrial ecosystems, such as the expansion of grasslands and radiations among terrestrial herbivores such as horses.