Hot answers tagged

78

Good question. If you look at the spectral energy distribution in the accepted answer here, we see that photons with wavelengths less than ~300 nm are absorbed by species such as ozone. Much beyond 750 infrared radiation is largely absorbed by species such as water and carbon dioxide. Therefore the vast majority of solar photons reaching the surface have ...


65

Surely it would be even more beneficial for plants to be black instead of red or green, from an energy absorption point of view. And Solar cells are indeed pretty dark. But, as Rory indicated, higher energy photons will only produce heat. This is because the chemical reactions powered by photosynthesis require only a certain amount of energy, and any ...


62

It's a matter of perspective. Most of the chemicals that are addictive to us humans (particularly alkaloids), and may be addictive for some other animals as well, are also insecticides. Lots of plants that we consider poisonous are good food for other species, and lots of plants that insects would consider poisonous are treats for us. This is a great ...


55

The phenomenon in question is probably related to geotropism. If the hill soil is "on the move" it will cause the bend on the trees - If the soil in a slope is moving downward, the trees on this slope will tip downward. As the tree continues to try to grow upward, the trunk will show a curve. The degree of bending could indicate the rate or ...


53

The three "holes" are the result of the 3 carpels in coconut flowers, and three carpels is typical of the family Arecaceae (Palms). The "holes" are actually germination pores, where one is usually functional and the other two are plugged. The new coconunt shoot will emerge from the functional, open, germination pore (see this webpage for pictures and further ...


35

Cellular respiration in plants is slightly different than in other eukaryotes because the electron transport chain contains an additional enzyme called Alternative Oxidase (AOX). AOX takes some electrons out of the pathway prematurely - basically the energy is used to generate heat instead of ATP. The exact purpose of AOX in plants is still unclear. Plants ...


33

That molecule is called Geosmin. It is mainly produced 1 by Actinomycetes such as Streptomyces which are filamentous bacteria that live in soil. Other organisms also produce geosmin: Cyanobacteria Certain fungi An amoeba called Vanella A liverwort It is an intracellular metabolite and cell damage is the primary reason attributed to its release. However ...


29

The short answer is that as long as the vegetable/fruit is fresh looking - i.e. the cells have not disintegrated - they will be respiring, many cells will be functioning quite normally, and the plant is still technically alive. In cases where the part of the plant we treat as a vegetable is a part intended for reproduction (e.g. a seed, or a tuber like a ...


29

The vast majority of a tree's carbon comes from the air, which averages 0.03-0.04% by volume (300-400 ppmv) CO2. This is fixed through photosynthesis and eventually stored as glucose which the plant can then use for its metabolism. Doing some quick math, this means that in order to produce 1 kilogram of carbohydrates (e.g. cellulose) a plant needs to ...


29

Most varieties of corn bred for modern use have between 8-20 rows of kernels (Bommert et al. 2013.. Nearly all varieties have an even number of kernel rows. This is due to the early development of the ear. Ears of corn are developed from pistillate flowers on the ear (Bortiri and Hake 2007). Pistillate flowers are the female flowers, so they will bear ...


28

I believe it is because of a trade off between absorbing a wide range of photons and not absorbing too much heat. Certainly this is a reason why leaves are not black - the enzymes in photosynthesis as it stands would be denatured by the excess heat that would be gained. This may go some of the way towards explaining why green is reflected rather than red ...


27

In fact, the idea of a plant nervous system is quite serious and constantly developing; of course those are rather local, simple signal pathways rather than an "animalian" centralized global network, but they use similar mechanisms -- depolarisation waves, neurotransmitter-like compounds, specialized cells... Here is a review paper by Brenner et al. In the ...


27

As someone commented earlier, chemicals such as nicotine and morphine were products of evolution meant to repel animals. It is explained in more details in this article here. Evolutionary biologists studying plant–herbivore interactions have convincingly argued that many plant secondary metabolites, including alkaloids such as nicotine, morphine and ...


25

Ripening of bananas is induced by ethylene (see reference 1), which acts as a hormone and induces the ripening process. The incomplete combustion of the leaves produces ethylene, additionally the warmth of the process will help the enzymes as well. There is even a paper about this technique (although it is unfortunately not accessible), see reference 2 for ...


25

The use of a genus-species notation gives more exact information. For example there are multiple species of chamomile: There is Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), German chamomile (Matricaria recutita, or Chamomilla recutita) and Dyer's chamomile (Anthemis tinctora). The first two species are appraised for their medicinal properties and help to calm upset ...


22

The short answer is that corn genome is large and has a huge amount of duplication events. Around 80% of the genome are repeated. It's hard to assemble genomes with large amount of duplications because our sequencing technology, practically, at best can give ~500 base pairs. Figuring out the ordering of duplicated regions relies on scaffold sequences or ...


22

See this paper "Divergence time estimates for the early history of animal phyla and the origin of plants, animals and fungi" for information on the divergence estimates (I'm not sure if there are more recent papers discussing this). Plants, animals and fungi are eukaryotes, distinct from eubacteria and archaebacteria, which are prokaryotes. The difference ...


20

There was a 2011 study where they used a sensitive atomic magnetometer to try to detect a plant's magnetic field. They stated that: To our knowledge, no one has yet detected the magnetic field from a plant. Biochemical processes, in the form of ionic flows and time varying ionic distributions, generate electrical currents and time-varying electric ...


19

There are some other good answers which provide part of the picture, but I think there is a fundamental organising principle which has been missed. Konrad has touched on it in his answer. The reason trees, and most plants, tend to grow equally in all directions is that they have iteratively generated branching and radial symmetry which is controlled in a ...


19

I've been doing some reading, and have come up with the following interesting information. Telomeres During cell division the DNA is replicated, but the mechanism is imperfect and in each round of cell division a small section is lost from the end of each chromosome. To compensate and protect the genetic information there are caps – regions of excess ...


19

Angiosperms -- that is, flowering plants -- only evolved relatively recently on an evolutionary timescale, about 125 millions years ago. So for most of the history of life on earth there have been no flowering plants. Thus it seems highly likely that if angiosperms were to suddenly disappear, life on earth would continue. There might be a massive disruption ...


18

Photosynthesis is nearly all visible light. There's usually not enough UV and thermodynamics more or less rules out infrared. Chris covered that pretty spectacularly, but that nearly is significant. There is some evidence that certain kinds of fungi can use gamma rays or other ionizing radiation for energy, but they're not particularly common. Melanin is ...


17

There is quite a fun article here which discusses the colours of hypothetical plants on planets around other stars. Stars are classified by their spectral type which is dictated by their surface temperatures. The Sun's is relatively hot, and it's spectral energy distribution peaks in the green region of the spectrum. However the majority of stars in the ...


17

It depends how you define locomotion. If you take it to mean moving from one place to another, then yes, almost all plants do this at some stage during their life cycle. Primarily seeds and pollen move around, and generally they do so by harnessing either natural forces like wind and rain, or by manipulating animals to do the leg-work, e.g.: by recruiting ...


17

A quick google image search reveals that, indeed, Texas has quite lush forests. Remember that the state is extremely large (as compared to the Northeastern states, for example), and encompasses a huge variety of terrain, climates, rainfall amounts, etc. While the stereotypical view of Texas is rugged, dusty terrain: From: ...


16

I like your question! Low surface pressure on Mars (averaging 600 Pa or about 1/170 of Earth's at sea level) is only one difficulty that an organism would have to contend with. In addition, mean surface temperatures are ~210 K (-63 C), the surface ultraviolet flux is extremely high (no ozone layer) and an aridity comparable to the Atacama desert. On the ...


16

Growth in plants is tightly controlled by auxins – plant hormones. Auxin itself usually has an inhibitory effect on growth [EDIT: see comments and Richard’s answer for correction]. As far as I know there is no active control to restore plant symmetry once it has gone awry (but I could be wrong!) but the inhibitory effect of auxin synthesised at the meristem ...


16

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Jan van Helmont. To summarise Blankenship's account, in the 17th century, he (Helmont, not Blankenship) grew a tree in a known dry weight of soil and weighed the fallen leaves of the tree, and then eventually the whole tree including the root system. He found that the mass of the soil had barely diminished and concluded ...


16

The more "dangerous" properties of spicy peppers are chiefly due to capsaicin. Sigma-Aldrich sells purified capsaicin, for which they provide safety information, including an MSDS. Most of it is the usual, unsurprising set of warnings about irritation to eyes and the respiratory system. However, there are LD50 numbers: LD50 Oral - rat - male - 161.2 ...


15

The selection you refer in multiple species could be due to a mutual advantage. If fruits absorb visible wavelengths, they can be spotted by other animals and eaten together with the seeds. Seeds can then mature inside the host and, once eliminated with the feces, grow up a new plant in a different place. This is not only valid for light absorption, but for ...



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