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Liming Cai
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside
Posted 5-14-21

Twitter Handle @daybreak_chua


Liming is always thrilled to learn about peculiar plants. During her PhD she worked on the systematics of Malpighiales, which occupy an astonishing range of morphological and ecological diversities including mangroves (Rhizophoraceae), cactus-like succulents (Euphorbiaceae), submerged hydrophytes (Podostemaceae), and non-photosynthetic parasites (Rafflesiaceae). Her work demonstrated that ancient polyploidization, incomplete lineage sorting, and gene flow all contribute to the early divergence of Malpighiales, making this group one of the most recalcitrant nodes across the plant Tree of Life. Her recent work on the world’s largest flower, Sapria himalayana (Rafflesiaceae), revealed unprecedented levels of gene loss and horizontal gene transfer in response to the evolution of parasitism. Currently, Liming is exploring the genetic basis of gall formation — an extreme case of plant–insect interaction in which the insect directly manipulates the development of a plant to create an ideal microhabitat.

Sapria himalayana (Rafflesiaceae)

Sapria himalayana
 is a non-photosynthetic parasitic plant distributed in the rainforest of Southeast Asia. Without identifiable leaves and roots, it relies entirely on its host Tetrastigma (Vitaceae) for nutrients and water. Decoding its genome led to novel insights showing how far parasites will go in stealing, deleting, and duplicating DNA. [Image courtesy of Hongobo Ding (CC BY 4.0).]

Liming Cai

Liming was born and raised in Changzhou, a beautiful city located on the southern bank of the Yangtze River in China. In addition to Mandarin and English, she also speaks Wu Chinese. She spends much of her free time painting portraits and landscapes. Ideally, she wants to become such a prominent artist that she can support her own research by selling paintings. Bye-bye grant proposal!

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