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Development and Evolution of Orchid Flowers: Investigating key regulators controlling orchid floral symmetry, organ identity and spur development

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Kim
    Prof S Turner
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Orchids comprise one of the largest and the most diverse angiosperm families. Currently, about 24,500 orchid species have been reported. Due to their biological complexity, orchids have been proposed as an attractive system with which to address many fundamental biological questions. In particular, orchid flowers are one of the best examples of coevolution between plants and pollinators and thus provide a unique opportunity to study development and evolution of flower forms and pollination biology. The orchid clade is also phylogenetically important, representing a petaloid monocot group that is distinct from other model species. From the biodiversity perspective, many orchids are on the verge of extinction, leading to a pressing need to study development and evolution of orchids. However, despite their apparent importance, molecular and genetic approaches to orchid flower development and evolution are still in their infancy. To date, orchids remain underrepresented in studies at a molecular level. One of the main obstacles is the availability of a suitable model species that is easy to maintain under laboratory conditions and has a wide range of mutants.

We have been investigating flower development in a promising orchid species, Neofinetia falcata (Wind orchid, Samurai orchid). N. falcata has enormous advantages over other orchid species. In particular, the mutant collection which has been collected over centuries in Koran and Japan is an invaluable source to study orchid flower development. In this project, you will investigate key regulators controlling orchid floral symmetry, organ identity and spur development as well as perform transcriptome analyses. Experimental approaches such as molecular biology, genetics, plant histology and phylogenetic analysis will be used for the study. This includes techniques such as molecular cloning and expression analysis, in situ hybridization, immunolocalization, plant transformation and tissue culture, Scanning Electron Micrography (SEM) and sequence analysis.

Funding Notes

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


Duttke S, Zoulias N, Kim M. (2012). Mutant flower morphologies in the Wind orchid, a novel orchid model species. Plant Physiology, 153, 1542-1547.

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