“I am fascinated by the endless variation of life forms in flowering plants and its evolutionary adaptive significance”. My background is comparative wood anatomy, and later I learned how to functionally interpret wood anatomical observations with respect to drought stress resistance using water flow measurements in stems. As an evolutionary biologist, I am eager to better understand why plants became woody during evolutionary history. By combining models of evolution and ecology with experimental work, this multidisciplinary project will hopefully revolutionise our understanding of wood formation, one of the most fundamental evolutionary innovations on Earth.
Derived woodiness, drought stress resistance, evolution of woodiness, hydraulic failure, insular woodiness, molecular wood pathway, wood anatomy
Plant AnatomyEvolution of Woodiness
Why do plants reinvent woodiness that was once lost in their herbaceous ancestors?
I discovered that transitions from herbaceousness towards derived woodiness have happened at least 600 times independently during evolutionary history of flowering plants. This raises the intriguing question which environmental factors triggered wood formation in these hundreds of lineages, and what are the key genes that turn on the wood pathway in derived woody plants?
A selection of the topics I am working on currently.
- Dória L.C., Podadera D.S., del Arco M., Chauvin T., Smets E., Delzon S., Lens F. 2018. Insular woody daisies (Argyranthemum, Asteraceae) are more resistant to drought-induced hydraulic failure than their herbaceous relatives. Functional Ecology 32: 1467-1478.
- Lens F., Picon-Cochard C., Delmas C., Signarbieux C., Buttler A., Jansen S., Chauvin T., Chacon Dória L., del Arco M., Cochard H., Delzon S. 2016. Herbaceous angiosperms are not more vulnerable to drought-induced embolism than angiosperm trees. Plant Physiology 172: 661-667.
- Choat B., Jansen S., Brodribb T.J., Cochard H., Delzon S., Bhaskar R., Bucci S., Feild T.S., Gleason S.M., Hacke U.G., Jacobsen A.L., Lens F., Maherali H., Martinez-Vilalta J., Mayr S., Mencuccini M., Mitchell P.J., Nardini A., Pittermann J., Pratt R.B., Sperry J.S., Westoby M., Wright I.J., Zanne A. 2012. Global convergence in the vulnerability of forests to drought. Nature 491: 752-756.
- Lens F., Sperry J.S., Christman M.A., Choat B., Rabaey D., Jansen S. 2011. Testing hypotheses that link wood anatomy to cavitation resistance and hydraulic conductivity in the genus Acer. New Phytologist 190: 709-723.
- Melzer S., Lens F., Gennen J., Vanneste S., Rhode A., Beeckman T. 2008. Flowering-time genes modulate meristem determinacy and growth form in Arabidopsis. Nature Genetics 40: 1489-1492.
PhD and postdocsupervision
Naturalis aims to be a breeding ground for international scientific talent. Therefore, PhD's and postdocs have a special position in our organisation.
- Alex Zizka - postdoc - Reaching for the sky: Unravelling global patterns and processes to explain convergent evolution of woodiness in angiosperms
- Maximilian Larter - postdoc - Herb hydraulics: testing the role of root pressure to unravel the dynamics of drought- induced vascular dysfunction in stems
- Dória Chacon Larissa - PhD - Functional xylem anatomy: intra and interspecific variation in stems of herbaceous and woody species)
- Jahanbanifard Mehrdad - PhD - Identification of ebony woods used in music instruments based on computational phenotyping and chemical profiling
- Thonglim Ajaree - PhD - Embolism resistance in stems and leaves of Brassicaceae
- BSc: Biodiversity of Plants - Tree of Life (plant anatomy), Leiden Univ.
- BSc: MINOR Scales in Biodiversity (integrated wood anatomy), Leiden Univ.
- MSc: Evolutionary Developments (derived woodiness), Leiden Univ.
The following projects are available to BSc and MSc students