Lead Chief Investigator: Jim Weller, University of Tasmania

Collaborating Chief Investigator: Barbara Holland


Our initial aim is to explore the evolution of a key state-change in plant responsiveness to photoperiod—whether flowering is initiated in response to long or short photoperiods.   

There is currently no known example where the detailed molecular basis for the evolution of this state-change has been demonstrated, nor has there been any broader analysis of the general principles that may allow, constrain or characterise it.  

Our research, therefore, could offer insights into specific cases but also understanding of broader themes and a better appreciation for the limits of prediction.  

This project is a test case for various mathematical approaches to genome and gene regulatory network comparisons and phylogenetically-informed sampling, in a (relatively) simple system with a simple trait, replicated evolution, and relatively well-defined underlying genetics and pathway models in several crop systems. It will inform subsequent approaches to more complex traits or phylogenetic comparisons. 

Our approach

Through literature searches, biogeographic predictions and empirical testing, we will characterise phenotypes and define a suitable phylogenetic framework, which will span several major plant and crop families and multiple instances of state change (i.e., from long-day to short-day response or vice versa).  

Over time, we aim to integrate genomic information (e.g., differences in gene family structure, coding and regulatory sequences) with photoperiod response at the transcriptome/gene regulatory network level.  

We may also extend to targeted functional validations in specific cases.