University of Tasmania

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Genetic control of the operculum and capsule morphology of Eucalyptus globulus

Background and aims: The petaline operculum that covers the inner whorls until anthesis and the woody capsule that develops after fertilization are reproductive structures of eucalypts that protect the flower and seeds. Although they are distinct organs, they both develop from flower buds and this common ontogeny suggests shared genetic control. In Eucalyptus globulus their morphology is variable and we aimed to identify the quantitative trait loci (QTL) underlying this variation and determine whether there is common genetic control of these ecologically and taxonomically important reproductive structures.

Methods: Samples of opercula and capsules were collected from 206 trees that belong to a large outcrossed F2E. globulus mapping population. The morphological variation in these structures was characterized by measuring six operculum and five capsule traits. QTL analysis was performed using these data and a linkage map consisting of 480 markers.

Key results: A total of 27 QTL were detected for operculum traits and 28 for capsule traits, with the logarithm of odds ranging from 2.8 to 11.8. There were many co-located QTL associated with operculum or capsule traits, generally reflecting allometric relationships. A key finding was five genomic regions where co-located QTL affected both operculum and capsule morphology, and the overall trend for these QTL was to affect elongation of both organs. Some of these QTL appear to have a significant effect on the phenotype, with the strongest QTL explaining 26.4 % of the variation in operculum shape and 16.4 % in capsule shape. Flower bud measurements suggest the expression of these QTL starts during bud development. Several candidate genes were found associated with the QTL and their putative function is discussed.

Conclusions: Variation in both operculum and capsule traits in E. globulus is under strong genetic control. Our results suggest that these reproductive structures share a common genetic pathway during flower bud development.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Annals of Botany








School of Natural Sciences


Oxford Univ Press

Place of publication

Great Clarendon St, Oxford, England, Ox2 6Dp

Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences