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Plants Found Two Miles Under Greenland Ice

According to a press release from University of Colorado,1 remnants of pine needles, bark and grass have been pulled up in an ice core from two miles under the Greenland ice sheet, between the bottom of the ice sheet and bedrock.  This is the first time plant material has been found under the Greenland ice, […]

Hire a Gopher to Rototill Your Land

We may holler at them when they dig up our lawns and gardens, but pocket gophers are an important part of the ecosystem, say Jim Reichman and Eric Seabloom in a UC Santa Barbara press release.  They change the nutrient availability for plants, among many things: They act like little rototillers, loosening and aerating the […]

Plant “Evolutionary Leftover” Now Deemed Vital

Photorespiration, “a biological process in plants, thought to be useless and even wasteful” and “just an evolutionary leftover” from an age when carbon dioxide was more prevalent, has been found to be “necessary for healthy plant growth and if impaired could inhibit plant growth,” according to a UC Davis study published in PNAS.1 (see also […]

Fungi Supply Plant Communities With Underground Nutrient Pipeline

Dig up a cubic yard of soil, and you may have disturbed 12,000 miles of an extensive network of passageways that supply plant roots with carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus.  This highway is made of fungi.  Their secret lives in the soil rarely see the light of day, but down in their cryptic, dark, subsurface world, […]

Weeds to Your Health

Why traverse the rain forests for miracle drugs, EurekAlert asks, when the weeds we yank out of our gardens may hold promise for curing a host of common health woes.  John Richard Stepp (University of Florida) claims that fast-growing, herbaceous field plants are more likely to hold useful substances than those deep in jungles.  Indigenous […]

Plant Evolution Modeled in Computer

Simulation games are popular on computers.  Darwinian biologists seem to like them, too.  What they cannot go back in time to observe, they sometimes try to recreate in silico, inside the silicon chips of a computer.  Karl J. Niklas (Cornell) tried to simulate plant evolution, and wrote about it in Annual Review of Earth and […]

Fossil Water Lily Matches Modern

Three Cornell botanists found fossil water lilies from the early Cretaceous that look nearly identical to modern ones, except that they are smaller.  The exquisitely-detailed fossils were preserved in a New Jersey clay pit by a process of coalification.  Water lilies (family Nymphaeaceae) are presumed by evolutionists to be among the earliest flowering plants (angiosperms).  […]

Can Traits Evolve Before Need?  The Case of California Chaparral Plants

A biologist went to California looking for evolution in plants.  He didn’t find it, but believes the plants evolved anyway.     That seems to be the upshot of a study by David D. Ackerly (Stanford U.) published in American Naturalist1 (see summary on EurekAlert).  Ackerly wanted to test whether natural selection produced the small, […]

Can Evolution Create Homologous Structures by Different Paths?

G�nter Thebien (Friedrich Schuller U, Jena, Germany) is baffled about how two plants arrived at similar structures by different evolutionary pathways.  In the April 22 issue of Nature,1 he asks, Structures that occur in closely related organisms and that look the same are usually considered to be homologous – their similarity is taken to arise […]

How Tall Can a Tree Grow?

130 meters (426 ft) seems to be the upper limit on the height of a tree, say researchers from Humboldt State, Northern Arizona University and Pepperdine University, in the April 22 issue of Nature.1  To find this out, they had to establish working stations at the tops of northern California redwoods, the tallest trees on […]

Evolutionary Cul-de-Sacs: Ferns Debunk Another Evolutionary Principle

“The principle of the evolutionary cul-de-sac is commonly invoked to explain the apparent lingering existence of once-diverse groups of organisms,” writes Torsten Eriksson in the April 1 issue of Nature.1  “Maybe that principle itself has had its day.”     The case in point are ferns, which long had been thought to have been pushed […]

A Weed Is a Nice Plant at the Wrong Party

How do weeds go wild?  That is a question investigated by Science Now on Feb. 20.1  A complex relationship between a plant and its microbial partners may keep it in check.  Transplant that species to an unfamiliar territory, and it may go out of control because it no longer has its restraining pathogens, or “natural […]

How Do Plants Know When to Bloom?

Scientists like to use big words to impress the rest of us, so they have a term for how a plant decides when to bloom: vernalization.  But making up a word for a phenomenon is not the same as explaining it.     Everybody observes that plants seem to just “know” that spring is here, […]

Plants Are World Travelers

We think of plants as stationary life forms anchored to the soil, but National Geographic News reminds us that they have remarkable ways of getting around via seed dispersal mechanisms.  Some fly through the air with parachutes or helicopters, some float in the water, and some rely on animals.  It appears that some exotic species […]

More Details of Photosynthesis Coming to Light

Photosynthesis, the light-harvesting capability of plants, was a black box 30 years ago, but more and more details have been elucidated by advanced probing techniques.  In the March 18 issue of Nature,1, a team of Chinese scientists determined the X-ray structure of a principal component acts like a light-harvesting antenna.  The structure utilizes special molecules […]
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