Isolating loci driving morphological diversity in Cardamine hirsuta

The project will be supervised by Miltos Tsiantis at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.


A key challenge in biology is to understand the genetic basis and degree of repeatability of morphological evolution at different evolutionary scales. One way to address this problem is to compare the genetic basis for variation in diverse traits in different organisms. To facilitate such studies in plants, we developed the Arabidopsis thaliana relative Cardamine hirsuta into a model system for understanding the diversification of leaf morphology. Leaf form can be classified as simple, where the leaf blade is entire (as in the reference plant A. thaliana), or dissected (compound) where the blade is divided into leaflets, as in C. hirsuta. To date, we have made the key observation that interspecific variation of leaf shape in C. hirsuta seems to be dominated by heterochronic pathways that also contribute to local adaptation (Baumgarten, Pieper et al., 2023). We now aim to isolate new quantitative trait loci (QTL) for leaf form in C. hirsuta and to investigate the physiological significance of naturally occurring leaf shape variation in this species. This approach, together with physiological experiments, will help us to understand the adaptive value of leaf shape variation. Our work will also address the degree of repeatability of morphological evolution at different evolutionary scales.

Key publication: Baumgarten L, Pieper B, et al. (2023). Pan-European study of genotypes and phenotypes in the Arabidopsis relative Cardamine hirsuta reveals how adaptation, demography, and development shape diversity patterns. PLoS Biol Jul 18;21(7):e3002191. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002191

Link to the Tsiantis group homepage:

Go to Editor View