Conifer seed cones are complex structures that perform some of the most crucial functions in the lifecycle of the plant, from capturing pollen during pollination to protecting and dispersing mature seeds. Because conifer cones are also highly integrated in their growth, the specific structures that a taxon develops to perform any one of these functions may influence the morphologies available to perform later functions. Our work has focused on how the performance of specific functions is tied to the types of growth in the cone, and how these relationships influence the range of diversity that we observe in extant and fossil species. For example, we linked small differences in the timing and location of cell proliferation in young seed cones to specific pollination morphologies. We have also explored how the development of cone scale anatomy early in development is linked with seed dispersal mechanisms that operate at the end of the their lifetime.
For these projects, we use a variety of microscopy techniques (e.g., standard anatomical sections and staining, confocal microscopy) in order to visualize regions of cone growth and identify how these regions shift over ontogeny.
Leslie, A.B. and Losada, J.M. 2019. Reproductive ontogeny and the evolution of morphological diversity in conifers and other plants. Integrative and Comparative Biology 59: 548-558.
Losada, J.M., Blanco-Moure, N., Leslie, A.B. 2019. Not all “pine cones” flex: functional trade-offs and the evolution of seed release mechanisms. New Phytologist 222: 396-406.
Losada, J.M. and Leslie, A.B. 2018. Why are the seed cones of conifers so diverse at pollination? Annals of Botany 121: 1319-1331.