Lead Chief Investigator: Robert Henry, The University of Queensland

Collaborating Chief Investigators: Tim Brodribb, Barbara Holland


We aim to reveal mechanism of evolution of wild plant populations adapting to different environments.  

Understanding the mechanisms of evolution of plant size, genome size and reticulate evolution will guide the application of these processes of plant adaptation in crop improvement and may improve conservation strategies for wild populations.  

The value of using genetic resources from wild crop relatives and specific manipulation of maternal genomes in crops will also be better defined. 

Our approach

Using the Eucalypts as a model system, we will evaluate the adaptive value of plant size, genome size and the role of reticulate evolution. Eucalypts have a wide range of plant sizes, variations in genome size and extensive reticulate evolution.  

Eucalypts have a well-known system of reticulate evolution which results in chloroplast genome capture over significant genetic distances. We will evaluate the contribution of reticulate evolution to the spread of adaptive nuclear genes in Eucalypts and their evolutionary importance. We will also investigate the impact of reticulate evolution on phylogenetic analysis.  

To determine the genetic basis of sympatric speciation based upon plant size, we will use two closely related spotted gums for which sequence data is available.  

We will explore the evolution of genome size in Eucalypts and in Proteaceae, an Australian family with genomes varying more than 100-fold in size.  

Using comparative genomics of species with widely differing genome sizes, we will investigate the relative contributions of polyploidy, whole genome duplications, gene duplications (e.g. tandem duplications), repetitive element expansions and genome rearrangements. To achieve this, we will add survey sequencing of genomes of divergent size to the available high quality reference genomes (e.g. Macadamia) within the family.