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Doubtful pathways to cold tolerance in plants


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arising from A. E. Zanne et al. Nature 506, 89–92 (2014); doi:10.1038/nature12872

Zanne et al.1,2 addressed an important evolutionary question: how did flowering plants repeatedly enter cold climates? Herbaceous growth, deciduous leaves, and narrow water-conducting cells are adaptations to freezing. Using phylogenetic analyses, they concluded that herbs and narrow conduits evolved first in the tropics (“trait first”), facilitating movement into freezing areas, but that deciduous leaves evolved in response to freezing temperatures (“climate first”). Unfortunately, even after correcting for an error that we uncovered3, the “striking findings” of Zanne et al.1 seem inconclusive; here we highlight methodological issues of more general interest and question the value of their approach. There is a Reply to this Brief Communication Arising by Zanne, A. E. et al. Nature 521, (2015).

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Figure 1: Unreported uncertainty and potential error.

Change history

  • 22 May 2015

    An earlier version of the proof was inadvertently used; this has now been corrected.


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Authors and Affiliations



E.J.E., J.M.d.V. and M.J.D. designed the study; J.M.d.V. wrote all scripts for analyses; E.J.E. and J.M.d.V. analysed the data; E.J.E., J.M.d.V. and M.J.D. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Erika J. Edwards.

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Edwards, E., de Vos, J. & Donoghue, M. Doubtful pathways to cold tolerance in plants. Nature 521, E5–E6 (2015).

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