Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 165–170 | Cite as

Experimental investigation of pathogenic stress on phytolith formation in Cucurbita pepo var. texana (wild gourd)

  • Logan KistlerEmail author
  • Jennifer M. Haney
  • Lee A. Newsom
Original Article


Silica phytoliths that form in plant tissues are useful to archaeologists because of their diagnostic value and longevity in ancient deposits. Palaeoecology, site formation processes, plant domestication, and other topics are routinely addressed using phytolith assemblages, especially when macrobotanical remains are not well preserved. However, little research has been conducted to document the effects of ecological variables on phytolith formation. Here, we investigate the effects of mosaic virus and bacterial wilt disease on diagnostic scalloped phytoliths in the rind of a wild-type Cucurbita pepo var texana (gourd). We observe a minimal change in phytolith size distribution between control plants and individuals with mosaic virus. However, we observe a notable difference between plants with bacterial wilt disease and control plants, with diseased individuals carrying a greater proportion of large-diameter scalloped phytoliths. This and similar phenomena could potentially confound archaeological interpretations of phytolith assemblages, and we suggest that the effects of this and other ecological variables should be studied in a diverse range of taxa.


Phytoliths Silica Cucurbita pepo Bacterial wilt disease Mosaic virus 



The authors thank Andy Stephenson and Miruna Sasuclark for providing sample materials and contributing abundant advice and information during their study. Penn State University provided laboratory space, equipment and other support for this research. Partial funding was supplied by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to Kistler, and by Newsom’s fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


  1. Agarie S, Agata W, Uchida H, Kubota F, Kaufman PB (1996) Function of silica bodies in the epidermal system of rice (Oryza sativa L): testing the window hypothesis. J Exp Bot 47:655–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baas P (1982) Systematic, phylogenetic, and ecological wood anatomy. In: Baas P (ed) New perspectives in wood anatomy. Martinus Nijhoff/Dr. W, Junk, pp 23–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baas P (1986) Systematic, phylogenetic, and ecological wood anatomy—history and perspectives. In: Givnish TJ (ed) On the economy of plant form and function. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 327–352Google Scholar
  4. Baas P, Jansen S, Wheeler EA (2003) Ecological adaptations and deep phylogenetic splits-evidence and questions from the secondary xylem. In: Steuessy TF, Mayer V, Horandl E (eds) Deep morphology: toward a renaissance of morphology in plant systematics. A.R.G, Gantner, pp 221–239Google Scholar
  5. Ball TB, Gardner JS, Anderson N (1999) Identifying inflorescence phytoliths from selected species of wheat (Triticum monococcum, T. dicoccon, T. dicoccoides, and T. aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare and H. spontaneum) (Gramineae). Am J Bot 86:1,615–1,623Google Scholar
  6. Barber KG (1909) Comparative histology of fruits and seeds of certain species of Cucurbitaceae. Bot Gaz 47:263–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bell CR (1959) Mineral nutrition and flower to flower pollen size variation. Am J Bot 46:621–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bhattacharjee S, Halane MK, Kim SH, Gassmann W (2011) Pathogen effectors target Arabidopsis EDS1 and alter its interactions with immune regulators. Science 334:1,405–1,408Google Scholar
  9. Cai K, Gao D, Luo S, Zeng R, Yang J, Zhu X (2008) Physiological and cytological mechanisms of silicon-induced resistance in rice against blast disease. Physiol Plant 134:324–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carlquist SJ (1975) Ecological strategies of xylem evolution. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  11. Cherif M, Asselin A, Belanger RR (1994) Defense responses induced by soluble silicon in cucumber roots infected by Pythium spp. Phytopathology 84:236–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooke J, Leishman MR (2007) Is plant ecology more siliceous than we realise? Trends Plant Sci 16:61–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cseke LJ, Kaufman PB (1999) How and why these compounds are synthesized by plants. In: Kaufman PB, Cseke LJ, Warber S, Duke JA, Brielmann HL (eds) Natural products from plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 37–90Google Scholar
  14. Currie HA, Perry CC (2007) Silica in plants: biological, biochemical and chemical studies. Ann Bot 100:1,383–1,389Google Scholar
  15. Cutler DF, Botha T, Stevenson DW (2008) Plant anatomy: an applied approach. Blackwell, MaldenGoogle Scholar
  16. Endress PK, Baas P, Gregory M (2000) Systematic plant morphology and anatomy—50 years of progress. Taxon 49:401–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Epstein E (2009) Silicon: its manifold roles in plants. Ann Appl Bot 155:155–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Evert RF (2006) Esau’s plant anatomy: meristems, cells, and tissues of the plant body: their structure, function, and development, 3rd edn. Wiley, HobokenGoogle Scholar
  19. Fauteux F, Rémus-Borel W, Menzies JG, Bélanger RR (2005) Silicon and plant disease resistance against pathogenic fungi. FEMS Microbiol Lett 249:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fauteux F, Chain F, Belzile F, Menzies JG, Belanger RR (2006) The protective role of silicon in the Arabidopsis powdery mildew pathosystem. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:17,554–17,559Google Scholar
  21. Fletcher JD, Wallace AR, Rogers BT (2000) Potyviruses in New Zealand buttercup squash (Cucurbita maxima Duch.): yield and quality effects of ZYMV and WMV 2 virus infections. NZ J Crop Hortic Sci 28:17–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fujiwara H (1993) Research into the history of rice cultivation using plant opal analysis. In: Pearsall DM, Piperno DR (eds) Phytolith analysis: application in archaeology and paleoecology. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, pp 147–158Google Scholar
  23. Hayward HE (1938) The structure of economic plants. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Heidrich K, Wirthmueller L, Tasset C, Pouzet C, Deslandes L, Parker JE (2011) Arabidopsis EDS1 connects pathogen effector recognition to cell compartment-specific immune responses. Science 334:1,401–1,404Google Scholar
  25. Iwasaki K, Matsumura A (1999) Effect of silicon on alleviation of manganese toxicity in pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata Duch cv. shintosa). Soil Sci Plant Nutr 45:909–920Google Scholar
  26. Judd WS, Campbell CS, Kellogg EA, Stevens PF, Donoghue MJ (2002) Plant systematics: a phylogenetic approach, 2nd edn. Sinauer Associates, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  27. Kaufman PB, Dayanandan P, Takeoka Y, Bigelow WC, Jones JD, Iler R (1981) Silica in shoots of higher plants. In: Simpson TL, Volcani BE (eds) Silicon and siliceous structures in biological systems. Springer, New York, pp 409–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kaufman PB, Dayanandan P, Franklin CI, Takeoka Y (1985) Structure and function of silica bodies in the epidermal system of grass shoots. Ann Bot 55:487–507Google Scholar
  29. Koehl MAR (1996) When does morphology matter? Ann Rev Ecol Syst 27:501–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lanning FC, Eleuterius LN (1989) Silica deposition in some C-3 and C-4 species of grasses, sedges and composites in the USA. Ann Bot 64:395–410Google Scholar
  31. Liang Y, Sun W, Zhu Y-G, Christie P (2007) Mechanisms of silicon-mediated alleviation of abiotic stresses in higher plants: a review. Environ Pollut 147:422–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Madella M, Jones MK, Echlin P, Powers-Jones A, Moore M (2009) Plant water availability and analytical microscopy of phytoliths: implications for ancient irrigation in arid zones. Quat Int 193:32–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Massey FP, Hartley SE (2006) Experimental demonstration of the antiherbivore effects of silica in grasses: impacts on foliage digestibility and vole growth rates. Proc R Soc B 273:2,299–2,304Google Scholar
  34. Mauseth JD (1988) Plant anatomy. Blackburn Press, CaldwellGoogle Scholar
  35. McNaughton SJ, Tarrants JL (1983) Grass leaf silicification—natural-selection for an inducible defense against herbivores. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 80:790–791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Metcalfe CR (1960) Anatomy of the monocotyledons, Gramineae, vol 1. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  37. Miner BG, Sultan SE, Morgan SG, Padilla DK, Relyea RA (2005) Ecological consequences of phenotypic plasticity. Trends Ecol Evol 20:685–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mitani N, Yamaji N, Ago Y, Iwasaki K, Ma JF (2011) Isolation and functional characterization of an influx silicon transporter in two pumpkin cultivars contrasting in silicon accumulation. Plant J 66(2):231–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mitani-Ueno N, Yamaji N, Ma JF (2011) Silicon efflux transporters isolated from two pumpkin cultivars contrasting in Si uptake. Plant Signal Behav 6:991–994CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Noshiro S, Baas P (2000) Latitudinal trends in wood anatomy within species and genera: case study in Cornus SL (Cornaceae). Am J Bot 87:1,495–1,506Google Scholar
  41. Pearsall DM (2000) Paleoethnobotany: a handbook of procedures, 2nd edn. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  42. Piperno DR (2006) Phytoliths: a comprehensive guide for archaeologists and paleoecologists. Altamira Press, LanhamGoogle Scholar
  43. Piperno DR (2009) Identifying crop plants with phytoliths (and starch grains) in Central and South America: a review and an update of the evidence. Quat Int 193:146–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Piperno DR, Stothert KE (2003) Phytolith evidence for early holocene Cucurbita domestication in southwest Ecuador. Science 299:1,054–1,057Google Scholar
  45. Piperno DR, Holst I, Wessel-Beaver L, Andres TC (2002) Evidence for the control of phytolith formation in Cucurbita fruits by the hard rind (Hr) genetic locus: archaeological and ecological implications. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:10,923–10,928Google Scholar
  46. Piperno DR, Ranere AJ, Holst I, Iriarte J, Dickau R (2009) Starch grain and phytolith evidence for early ninth millennium B.P. maize from the Central Balsas River Valley, Mexico. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:5,019–5,024Google Scholar
  47. Prychid CJ, Rudall PJ, Gregory M (2003) Systematics and biology of silica bodies in monocotyledons. Bot Rev 69:377–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rosen AM, Weiner S (1994) Identifying ancient irrigation: a new method using opaline phytoliths from emmer wheat. J Archaeol Sci 21:125–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Samuels AL, Glass ADM, Ehret DL, Menzies JG (1991) Mobility and deposition of silicon in cucumber plants. Plant Cell Environ 14:485–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sasu MA, Seidl-Adams I, Wall K, Winsor JA, Stephenson AG (2010) Floral transmission of Erwinia tracheiphila by cucumber beetles in a wild Cucurbita pepo. Environ Entomol 39:140–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Savvas D, Giotis D, Chatzieustratiou E, Bakea M, Patakioutas G (2009) Silicon supply in soilless cultivations of zucchini alleviates stress induced by salinity and powdery mildew infections. Environ Exp Bot 65:11–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Simpson MG (2006) Plant systematics. Elsevier/Academic Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  53. Simpson TL, Volcani BE (1981) Silicon and siliceous structures in biological systems. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) Biometry: the principles and practice of statistics in biological research, 3rd edn. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  55. Strömberg CAE (2004) Using phytolith assemblages to reconstruct the origin and spread of grass-dominated habitats in the great plains of North America during the late Eocene to early Miocene. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 207:239–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stuessy TF (2009) Plant taxonomy: the systematic evaluation of comparative data, 2nd edn. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  57. Tallamy DW, Krischik VA (1989) Variation and function of cucurbitacins in Cucurbita: an examination of current hypotheses. Am Nat 133:766–786CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tsartsidou G, Lev-Yadun S, Efstratiou N, Weiner S (2008) Ethnoarchaeological study of phytolith assemblages from an agro-pastoral village in northern Greece (Sarakini): development and application of a phytolith difference index. J Archaeol Sci 35:600–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Whang SS, Kim K, Hess WM (1998) Variation of silica bodies in leaf epidermal long cells within and among seventeen species of Oryza (Poaceae). Am J Bot 85:461–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zhang J, Lu H, Wu N, Li F, Yang X, Wang W, Ma M, Zhang X (2010) Phytolith evidence for rice cultivation and spread in mid-late neolithic archaeological sites in central North China. Boreas 39:592–60Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Logan Kistler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer M. Haney
    • 1
  • Lee A. Newsom
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA

Personalised recommendations