Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos


-1460 widely known Forks High basketball sensation Kasey Ulin, whose remarkable fast reflexes and in-air jump shots should be studied by scientists.
Tune is 'California here I Come. "THE RAIN MAKES EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL" Washington is lots of fun. Come on out to Washington We've steelhead and salmon and beautiful girls Volcanos, high mountains, and OCEANS of ocean Cherries and apples and tall Douglas firs Rain makes everything beautiful Come on Back to Washington- Washington is lots of fun" Additions, suggestions welcome .-John Barrett AMBORELLA and other BASAL ANGIOSPERM CLADISTICS to Professor MICHAEL DONOGHUE formerly Harvard, now Yale - I enjoyed hearing and seeing you November 1999 on my trip east. Your use with Sarah Mathews of the phytochrome gene doubling to find the very early divergence of Amborella is a splendid piece of work and a great opportunity for cladists to use a really old outgroup. I read that ribosomal RNA studies by the Soltises and several other studies support the result, but yesterday I ran across a Penn State study that suggests Nymphaea might be as divergent, at least according to their data. Nothing in science is absolutely certain, but I wonder if you see any way of "falsifying" the position of AMBORELLA as outgroup? Could something have happened to accelerate 'molecular clocks' in Amborella? It would have to be pretty extreme, but organisms do vary in the rate of molecular change- the best known factor is generation time, as a substantial percentage of mutations occur in meiosis and recombination. It would be worth examining the ctyogenetics and chromosomal position of phytochrome genes and also the genes controlling the ribosomal RNA studied by first Woese and now the Soltises. It would be worth looking at and perhaps publishing information on the chromosomal positions of the variable sites you are using. Presumably these codons are mostly selectively neutral, conferring neither selective advantage nor disadvantage to their host plants. Sometimes it does happen that DNA sequences that are selectively neutral in one population and environment develop a selective force in other situations. One common situation involves what I think are called "R-selected" organisms, where rapid cell replication permits colonization, as with fruitflies Drosophila, which can launch a new generation in six weeks when abundant fruit is available. In such organisms non-coding "junk" DNA which otherwise would be nearly neutral selectively is jettisoned because it slows the cell cycle. It would be interesting to calculate whether some organisms have fast clocks because genomic sequences that are ordinarily selectively neutral have developed some bias. Viruses,plasmids, jumping genes, neighboring genes, chromosomal linkage factors or new phenomena yet to be discovered might occasionally disrupt clocks that are usually reliable. I am beginning to gather a list of cladistic characters worth investigating in Amborella and other basal angiosperms. If Amborella is truly basal as currently appears probable, some parallelisms probably exist that need to be explained. I sent Peter Stevens an E mail this week inquiring about the cotlyedons - Idiospermum and some others show extra cotyledons which might be either primitive, character reversal, or new mutation. Variability within the extant Amborella trichopoda population should be preserved and researched as much as possible, noting if there is any different between higher and lower elevations among other factors. I shall probably try to communicate with Porter Lowry and others to find an estimate of the number of extant Amborella trichopoda plants in the New Caledonia uplands. I see it is said to be fairly abundant in the moist high elevations on relatively normal soils, not the serpentine and specialized mineral areas of the island. Pollen may be the best chance for some fossil record. The Amborella clade is much older than the present volcanic island of New Caledonia, but there could be fossil pollen extending back some millions of years in New Caledonia, and it would be worthwhile if pollen or other fossils of the clade could be recognized there or elsewhere. Peter Stevens in reply mentions there is uncertainty whether double fertilization and endosperm are basal in angiosperms. Rolf Dahlgren was interested in seed characters of Nympheales and Piperales, with abundant perisperm and little endosperm. During 1988-90 I helped enlist Delbert Wiens, who went to Juan Fernandez with Tod Stuessy and Dan Crawford and helped discover the principal locations of Lactoris fernandiana January-February 1990 - Wiens then managed to propagate some of the very temperamental tiny Lactoris seed - some has been used by Dan Crawford and others for molecular study, and one plant which Wiens personally took to Kew was photographed by Peter Endress and reported by Tony Hall late 1990s in bloom at Kew Alpine collection. William Burger suggested that Lactoris might be among the most primitive flowers, but molecular data placing it near Aristolochiaceae imply probably it has been reduced in wind-pollinated wind-seed-pollinated [anemochorous?] environment. Fossils may clarify what the common ancestor of Nympheales and Piperales + angiosperms was like - dicots and most angiosperms retain a eustele apparently homologous with conifers and other gymnosperms despite the long divergence of time. On the other hand Barry Tomlinson has developed evidence of a major re-organization in monocots, so that monocot vasculature he believes in not homologous. Much of my interest in angiosperm cladistics goes back to two August 1984 papers that remain important. The Missouri Botanic Garden had a symposium on 'Bases of Angiosperm Phylogeny' including James and Audrey Walker on fossil pollens, in which I learned the names of a great many of the basal families, which I have since studied -- and in TAXON August 1984 Klaus Kubitzki and Otto Gottlieb discussed the SHIKIMATE PATHWAY, which they believe gave early angiosperms great chemical versatility both for defense against herbivory and then for attraction of fruit dispersers and pollinators. I see Watson and Dallwitz 1999 report Amborellaceae lack essential oils and have thirteen as the base number of their diploid 26 chromosomes. It seems probable that as Rome was not built in a day, the molecular complexity of genes underlying the shikimate pathway took many millions of years to develop, but the chemically more advanced forms probably came after the branching of Amborella, Nymphaea which may have regressed chemically, and perhaps the Austrobaileya clade. The delightful re-discovery of Madagascar Takhtajania in 1997 has supported an opinion of mine based on Kubitzki-Gottlieb that chemically complex fragrances like tropical Zygogynum were ancestral in Winteraceae, and lost in fly-pollinated, more temperate Drimys. Various taxa in Monimiaceae can be explained similarly. It is still not certain where vesselless wood is ancestral in angiosperms, but living taxa seem confined to year-around moist sites, generally not too warm. It would be interesting to have as much data as possible on present and past climates of New Caledonia. I note that the Missouri Botanic Garden has a major role there, and other botanists and conservation biologists should give this extraordinary large island as much attention as possible. Political changes there should be watched from the conservation viewpoint. I am starting to develop a personal file on Amborella, including bibliography, cladistic characters, and ecology-conservation, which I will be glad to share with anyone interested. I also attended Harvard-MCZ population biology seminars and have been interested in genes and genomics. I wonder if information is available on genome size and generation time in Amborella. I believe Amborella is ordinarily dioecious, but occasional variations in this character could be very informative, and there might be the possibility of "breeding back" to show what monoecious or perfect-flowering ancestors may have been like including evidence of self-incompatibility. Initially I am writing this for Michael Donoghue and sending copies to Peter Stevens, Judy Warnement, Bob Cook,David Boufford, and plant geneticist David Haig. I shall try to find E mails of Sarah Mathews and Porter Lowry and perhaps others - please pass this along if you have a convenient opportunity. Respectfully, with best wishes John Barrett 113 West Third St., Port Angeles WA98362-2824 . ADDENDUM Not to distract from main message above, I wonder how useful fossils may be as outgoups, and what will happen to other vascular plant cladistics. It will be interesting whether Archaefructus and/or Sanmiguelia and various pollen fossils prove to be angiosperm relations. In living vascular plants, recently published molecular studies appear to place Botrychium and Ophioglossum in a clade with Psilotum at some distance from main fern group, and then all these are nearer seed plants than Lycopods and their fossil relations. Molecular and fossil evidence of origin of seed plants needs to be clarified, and the long gap to angiosperms filled in. Did entomophily arise independently in cycads and Gnetales or in a common ancestor - then lost in conifers? Welwitschia shows signs of a bisexual inflorescence in an ancestor, and my recollection is that in "Phytomorphology" I read of some functionally bisexual infloresences of Asian Ephedraceae species. It is possible but probably difficulty for rearrangements to occur to bring separate reproductive structures in proximity with entomophily acting for selection. I saw one recent opinion that Bennettiales may be near cycads than either Gnetales or angiosperms. I note that Mishler's Berkeley group has moved Caratophyllum nearer core angiosperms than Nymphaea though I do not know all the reasons. There was another Kubitzki - Gottlieb paper I think October 1984 Planta Medica that showed that Gnetales and rosid angiosperms had a wide range of analogous chemicals, but it has been suggested they come in from chloroplasts rather than close direct relations. I have read that plants utilizing the shikimate pathway require more nitrogen and other soil nutrients, so they have not entered many new habitats since the success of bee-pollinated flowers. It is suggested flies and small beetles were among the earliest pollinators, and that specialized flowers with numerous stamens to feed large beetles emerged much later perhaps Paleocene. - I once visited a pub in rural Cork, Ireland, which had a clock whch I was told was right twice a day.
Year: 1999