Assorted plant papers
When finding the paper for the previous post, I ran into several more interesting planty papers. So, rather than just letting them go, here’s a brief summary of each.
- A couple about the bacteria which live in the roots of the bean family, supplying them with nitrogen. One details a signal from the plant to the bacteria, in the form of a protein. What’s interesting is that it looks like the proteins that would normally kill bacteria, so evolution has changed a hostile interaction to a more friendly one. Another paper looks at the mechanism which lets the plant pass proteins to the bacteria.
- Animals which live in trees have evolved to live longer than those on the ground. Flying animals were already known to live longer, but now we know it goes for tree-climbers too. The idea is that if you’re less likely to get eaten (or squashed, or drowned by flash floods…), it pays to take life in a more leisurely fashion, rather than living and breeding as fast as possible before something catches up with you. OK, so the link to plants is a bit strained, but it’s interesting all the same.
- An interesting question for botanists is why seeds come in such different sizes (think about a bag of grass seed, say, versus a coconut). Someone’s done some modelling to suggest that it could be down to a trade-off: big seeds can survive in hostile environments, but small seeds have the the advantage in numbers.
- I’ve previously mentioned the idea that RUBISCO, the key enzyme in photosynthesis, is already doing about as well as it could without a complete redesign. A new analysis supports that view.
- Calculations show that forests are growing faster, and not just where they’re recovering from human damage.
- Species diversity might depend on individual variation. Not sure I fully understand the idea, but it sounds a bit like the neutral theory of biodiversity. I might read this later.