Cranes rooster, or crane tree, has been a staple of the landscape of North Carolina for more than a century.
This North Carolina native tree was introduced to the state in the mid-1800s and has survived through the Industrial Revolution, the Civil War, the AIDS epidemic, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession.
These years have seen an influx of new cranes, which can easily outlive their owners.
The average crane rooster lifespan is about three to four years.
But many of these trees are dying out in the wild, which has forced the tree to be replanted.
Researchers at the University of Washington recently published a study in the journal PLOS ONE that looked at the tree’s genetic variation and found that it is more resilient to human influence.
One of the key components of this resilience is a “functional polymorphism” that makes the tree more susceptible to pests.
“When you have a functional polymorphism, it can make the tree even more resistant to a pest that’s not an important pest,” said lead author and UW professor of entomology and plant biology Jens Schmidt.
Schmidt, who is also an entomologist at the US Geological Survey, said that the species of tree that the researchers studied had evolved a survival advantage over others because of its “superior tolerance” to pest attacks.
Schmidt said that this survival advantage was probably related to the way that the tree protects itself from disease and is able to maintain a healthy ecosystem in the absence of natural predators.
In other words, if a predator attacks a tree, the tree can resist that attack and survive by replanting.
Schmidt and his team compared the genetic diversity of this tree with that of other species that have adapted to the climate changes that have hit the United States in recent years.
They found that the overall genetic diversity in this tree is almost two-thirds lower than that of the species that are likely to be most at risk for extinction under human influence in the future.
One potential reason for the differences between the tree and other species is that this particular tree has a longer lifespan, which is likely to have implications for its longevity.
The tree was studied for its ability to regenerate damaged branches when damaged by wind or water, as well as for its resilience to insects.
The researchers found that both these traits were reduced when the tree was replanted after the first frost.
In addition, the trees genetic diversity was reduced as the trees age, which may be related to increased competition between these species.
“It’s likely that this tree will have a longer life expectancy than other species,” Schmidt said.
“That’s a good thing because it’s a great example of a tree that has a very long life expectancy that is resistant to climate change.”
A different approach Schmidt and other researchers used to look at this study focused on the “functional” polymorphism.
That is, they looked at how the genetic variation between the species was affected by environmental factors.
For example, how the tree responded to soil conditions and how the trees ability to use nutrients was affected.
Schmidt found that while the tree had the strongest resistance to wind and water, the genes for these traits didn’t change significantly when the wind and/or water was removed.
These genetic differences may be a way for these species to maintain their ecological functions when the climate becomes warmer.
Schmidt noted that if these trees do not have the capacity to withstand changes in the climate, then the environmental factors that they rely on to live will become less useful to them.
The study was published online March 12 in PLOS Genetics.
The next step for the researchers will be to study the genetic variations in other tree species that might be more at risk of being affected by climate change.
“We are interested in how the functional polymorphisms in the tree respond to changes in temperature and precipitation,” Schmidt explained.
“If there are many of them, they might be at greater risk of climate change, as they have more genetic diversity than other types of tree species.”
A previous study from Schmidt and the UW researchers found similar results.
The previous study also used a genetic model to look for the genetic differences between different tree species.
This work, however, did not find any significant differences between these tree species, and Schmidt said he believes that this may be because they were not part of the model.
Schmidt is currently looking into using a genetic approach to study tree species more broadly.
He also wants to study other types (such as flowers, leaves, and seedlings) that might have less genetic diversity to work with.
“I think that it would be a useful study to try to determine if other species are as resilient to climate changes as this one is,” Schmidt told Recode.