The scientific intrigue comes when scientists call a big family reunion, and discover that the "A" family all look close to alike, despite those subtle environmental differences. Family "B," however, clearly didn't follow the family genetic rules, with some towering over the group, and others being vertically challenged.
And like family reunions, the competition is decided as everyone compares pictures of the grandchildren. In Arabadopsis's case, the solid Family A produces more "children" - or flowers, than the erratic Family B. "As it turns out, and perhaps not surprisingly, those genotypes that tended in general to vary more, tended to not produce as many flowers (and thus were less likely to reproduce successfully)," Dworkin said. "There definitely are costs to variation." In addition, this study provides preliminary evidence that a well known plant development gene ERECTA may be in part responsible for some of the change in some genotypes. However, Dworkin said this conclusion requires further study.
Dworkin's part of the research was funded by the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.