Category Archives: Plant Cuttings

Plant parts doing unexpected things: Part 2 (or, Root research all up in the air)

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Our suitably erudite – albeit neophyte – botanical generation who knew about the functions of plant stems when quizzed previously (see Plant parts doing unexpected things: Part 1, posted previously) would probably do equally well when asked about the main roles of roots*. However, what they may be surprised to learn is that some roots photosynthesise (yes, like stems or leaves). We’re not talking about ‘typical’ soil-surrounded roots, but the so-called aerial roots of epiphytic plants perched high above the ground on trees – for example certain orchids. These photosynthetic roots dangle in the air that surrounds the epiphyte and its host plant. Whilst a photosynthetic capability is unusual for a root that is typically subterranean, you might expect that gain of this function might be at the expense of another, more typical root role, say absorption. But no, such roots still retain the capacity to absorb water from their surroundings. However, rather than rely on the assistance of root hairs as for their terrestrial, soil-rooted relatives, nature has equipped these aerial roots with an additional tissue, the velamen. The velamen is a remarkable multi-layered epidermis-like structure whose specially thickened cells not only absorb water from the humid air or rain water, but also help to reduce transpiration from the internal root tissues when the velamen cells are dried out. There is still much to uncover about the role of the velamen in the biology of epiphytes, but an interesting discovery has been made by Guillaume Chomicki et al., and one that relates not to the plant’s water relations but to the integrity of the root’s photosynthetic process. Recognising that levels of damaging ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation are high in the epiphytes’ habitat, and knowing that UV-B screening compounds such as flavonoids help to protect leaves, the team wondered how similarly challenged, photosynthetic roots might be protected from UV-B harm. Using a nice combination of molecular and structural techniques – gene expression analyses, mass spectrometry, histochemistry and chlorophyll fluorescence – they demonstrated that UV-B exposure resulted in inducible production of two UV-B screening flavonoids within the living (i.e. young) velamen of Phalaenopsis × hybrida, but which compounds persist in the cell walls of the functional – dead – velamen tissue. Furthermore, and interestingly, this root mechanism of UV-B protection is apparently different from that employed by leaves. A case of same destination, different routes? Not bad for a dead tissue one could easily write-off as merely acting like a sponge!

* Which, for completeness, are generally assumed to be: anchorage of plant in soil, absorption of water/minerals from the soil, storage of reserve materials, and conduction of water/nutrients to/from the stem – Ed.

2015 International Year of…

 

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Ever since 1959/60 with ‘World Refugee Year’ we’ve seen all manner of ‘International Years of’ (IYO). These global ‘observances’ are endorsed by the United Nations, an international organisation established after the Second World War and whose noble and worthy objectives include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. Developing the notion that global problems require global solutions and action – and few issues are more pressing and global than food security – 2015 is the IYO (or on…) Soils (or IYS at it is officially abbreviated). If you wonder what the connection between soils and food is, then the former is the rooting medium that supports (both literally and nutritionally) the great majority of human’s staple crops – whether cereal (e.g. ricewheatmaizesorghum), legumes (e.g. chickpeaslentilssoybean) or tubers (e.g. sweet potatocassavapotato). Quite simply, without soil we wouldn’t be able to grow the plants to feed Man or the animals he eats. But it has to be the right kind of soil, with sufficiency of the 17 nutrients essential for plant growth and development, minimal levels of harmful compounds such as heavy metals or salts, and with enough freshwater to help sustain plant life. In many areas of the world such suitable soils are diminishing resources as a result of phenomena such as desertification and salinisation (the latter ironically often a consequence of irrigation by human intervention). Recognising the central importance of soil to food security – and doing its bit to engender a Brown Revolution*, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has been nominated to implement IYS 2015, with the aims of increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. We wish them well in that worthy endeavour. But there’s more! For 2015 is also the IYO Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015). Although this IYO is much more about raising awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health, amongst the thousands of words devoted to this ‘event’, but almost as an after-thought, it does dedicate 78 words to the most important light-related phenomenon of photosynthesis when it considers light in nature (alongside rainbows, sunsets and northern lights…). So, two IYOs with strong plant themes (even if the photosynthetic pre-eminence of light is somewhat ‘hidden under a bushel’).. But until we have an International Year of Plants, we’ll have to make the most of The Fascination of Plants Day 2015 on 18th May (2015)

 

* This is but one of a many-hued spectrum of agriculture-related revolutions (which includes the mid-20th century’s better known Green Revolution), but which is distinct from the other brown revolutions pertaining to leather or cocoa production in India.

 

[So that you can be ready before the next IYO happens, here’s advance notice that 2016 is the IY of camelids (camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos), and pulses (the edible, dried seeds of members of the legume family, e.g. beans, lentils). And to whet your appetite for IYS 2015, five fascinating facts about soil can be found at the CropLife website – Ed.]

Plant parts doing unexpected things: Part 1 (or, Giving transpiration a little boost…)

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

All botanists (plant biologists/plant scientists/phytologists…) worthy of the name should be able to state the important roles played by various plant parts. Stems, for example, support the leaves(!), help to conduct water, photosynthates and other solutes to other plant parts, engage in some photosynthesis (primarily when young), and store such materials as starch. Well, so much for the commonplace quartet of functions. As botanists of an enquiring and sufficiently sceptical nature we probably also know that such a list is never complete, and plants can usually be found that defy convention and engage in practices additional to the received wisdom of general texts. So, welcome news that Or Sperling et al. have discovered the phenomenon of ‘transpirational-boosting’* in the date palm. Famously, the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) grows in desert-like areas of northern Africa and the Middle East. Deserts are defined primarily in terms of low rainfall; consequently, water is a limiting resource to plant growth in that challenging environment. Yet palms are substantial arborescent monocots that can grow to 30 m tall and whose ecological dominance is sustained with uniquely high rates of transpiration. How is this possible in such water-limited regions? Recognising that the high transpiration rates cannot be sustained by soil water supply alone, Sperling et al. examined the reservoir of water within the palm’s stem. Using a combination of heat dissipation, gravimetric sampling and time domain reflectometry (you’ll need to read the open-access paper for the details of these techniques!), they determined that date palms substantially rely on the exploitation and recharge of the stem reservoir in their water budget; stem-located water contributes approximately 25 % of the daily transpiration rate. The date palm stem holds around 1 m3 of water and transpirational losses are recharged by more than 50 litres each night, which, the team argue, is sufficient to maintain daily reuse throughout the growing season. Although irrigated palms were specifically investigated, that still leaves 75 % of the water usage to be supplied externally. Whilst this column is not the place to engage in debate on contentious topics, such as globally growing demands (yes, unintentional pun noted…) on, and concerns over, future availability of fresh water, and not overlooking the issue of salinisation of soil that may accompany such anthropogenic irrigation practices, it is worth just raising the question of how long one can continue to engage in, or justify, human appropriation of water in this way. However, given the socio-economic importance, etc., of date palms – whose genome has been sequenced by Ibrahim S. Al-Mssallem et al. – perhaps there is a suitable case for ‘engineering’ of this magnificent monocot to enhance the contribution of transpirational-boosting**? Or, if we turn this discovery around, what about the rest of the approximately 351,999 other angiosperm species that haven’t been so examined? Might not more of them have evolved this T-B*** mechanism? And, if so, are estimates of future water demand by crops and other plants in need of revision? Botany, not afraid to tackle the big issues of the day (and tomorrow…)! Regardless, date palm is maybe another plant to add to the more conventional ones of cacti and euphorbs as examples of ‘stem succulents’.

* The ever-helpful Mr P Cuttings has kindly given this newly discovered phenomenon its suitably catchy name for the benefit of all plant science textbook writers (etc.) – Ed.

** No inverted commas this time – that must mean that this newly coined term is gaining acceptance by the community at large… – Ed.

*** And, having now been reduced to an initialism (as distinct from the frequently mis-applied term acronym), this phrase seems to be here to stay(?) – Ed.

Warning: Aposematism Alert!

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Aposematism, a ‘family of antipredator adaptations where a warning signal is associated with the unprofitability of a prey item to potential predators’, is usually defined from an animal perspective (hence terms like ‘prey’ and ‘predator’). And that is probably because only animals have generally been considered to go in for this strategy. Although plants employ a wide range of devices, colours and odours that attract animals who perform various beneficial services – e.g. pollination or fruit/seed dispersal, these are not warning signals but are viewed more as ‘advertisements’. However, for some time there’s been a growing suggestion that aposematism might also be a feature of plant behaviour (although one recognises that the idea that plants might ‘behave’ is as dangerous a notion as considering plants to be ‘intelligent’, but I’ll risk it!). One of the most recent examples of this putative phytoaposematism is considered by Kazuo Yamazaki and Simcha Lev-Yadun. Taking their inspiration from well-documented examples of spiders who mimic flowers, which thereby renders them camouflaged so that their flower-visiting prey can’t see them and consequently fall victim to the arachnid’s advances, they reflect that the production of white trichomes by some plants might mimic arthropod silk. The pair argue that, since herbivores shun spider-webs to avoid predation or toxic attacks, or refrain from colonizing plants that have already been occupied by other herbivores, these plant structures may mimic those animal features. Consequently, such plants are likely to be less affected by herbivory than those that don’t bear such features. Interestingly, the pair concedes that this may not be a case of classical mimicry, but rather an exploitation of ‘the herbivore’s perceptual state concerning the avoidance of potentially risky objects’. So, a case of plants playing ‘mind-games’ with animals? It therefore seems that arachnophobia (‘a specific phobia, the fear of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions’) is not just a human condition. However, the authors don’t dismiss the possibility that these web-like structures may also have other defensive or physiological functions, or even mimic fungal hyphae…

[For more on this fascinating, and often colourful, world of plant aposematism and anti-herbivory defence, we recommend other publications from the prolific output of the University of Haifa’s Professor Simcha Lev-Yadun, e.g. ‘Defensive masquerade by plants’, ‘Potential defence from herbivory by “dazzle effects” and “trickery coloration” of leaf variegation’ and ‘Why is latex usually white and only sometimes yellow, orange or red? Simultaneous visual and chemical plant defense’ – Ed.]

MPs fiddle with Nature…

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

In a so-called democracy, such as the United Kingdom (UK), the power to decide what is best for the majority is delegated to a few worthy individuals, the Members of Parliament (MPs). But how knowledgeable are those MPs, and therefore how fit are they to tell the rest of the population what is good for us? Indeed, is the country/world safe in the hands of such people? It is not my intention to provide a definitive answer to that question (that is most definitely what Mr P. Cuttings is not about!). Instead, I will share a story with you that might help you to make up your own minds… As the autumn of 2014 was in full swing and the lanes of merry England were elsewhere turning leafy as leaves fell from the trees, a gardener – employed by the UK’s MPs – was observed removing leaves by hand from lime trees in New Palace Yard (below the clock tower that houses Big Ben near the UK’s Houses of Parliament). Understandably there was outrage in the media of that green and pleasant land over the waste of money involved in this seemingly unnecessary activity (e.g. in The Telegraph and the Daily Mail). Now, I don’t know much about the finer details of the senescence (a ‘phase of development that is a transdifferentiation episode following the completion of growth, which may or may not be succeeded by death, but which is absolutely dependent on cell viability and the expression of specific genes’) of leaves, or of the process of leaf fall – abscission (in which process leaves are periodically shed from plants such as trees in the autumn) –  but I do understand that picking leaves before they’re ‘ripe’ has a number of consequences, and concern over any waste of money seems to be least of our worries. For instance, their premature removal prevents resorption of important materials such as nitrogen – the supply of which macronutrient from the environment is frequently implicated in limiting plant growth – from the senescing leaves back into the body of the plant. Plus, by preventing the leaves from falling to the ground they will not undergo decomposition, thereby preventing the release of further important nutrients back into the environment where they would continue to support life by flowing within biogeochemical cycles. Furthermore, removing leaves from the trees before they have had time to develop the abscission zone potentially opens up the plant to entry of harmful agents such as fungibacteria and viruses. And the soil, its plant roots and other inhabitants are deprived of the insulating properties that a carpet of leaves would provide.  Although this benefit would only last until the leaves are decomposed or removed, it is conceivable that this layer would probably keep the subphyllous habitat just that little bit warmer for longer, for whatever biological purposes might benefit thereby and therefrom. [Mr P. Cuttings realises that he’s going out on a bit of a limb here, but just because nobody else may have heard of this, doesn’t mean that it might not be important or ecologically relevant – Ed.] Whilst it has come to light that the trees were effectively being pruned and not simply stripped of their leaves, the result is the same – leaves from the tree ‘untimely ripped’, and the knock-on effects noted above still apply. So, if MPs can’t be trusted not to interfere with some of the most basic processes of nature, can we trust them at all? Hmmm, something to ponder as we await the return of spring (assuredly) and of the leaves (hopefully!) to London and the rest of that democratised nation.

The 1001st use of bamboo?

Image: David Raju, India Biodiversity Portal, http://indiabiodiversity.org. [http://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/28371]

Image: David Raju, India Biodiversity Portal, http://indiabiodiversity.org. [http://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/28371]

Bamboo, an extremely fast-growing, woody grass that is now established throughout the world, is so versatile that it allegedly has 1000 uses. Traditionally, such uses are numbered from the human perspective, including food (not limited to bamboo shoots, beloved of Giant Pandas – which iconic bears are so revered by humans that these endangered animals are shamelessly further exploited as the emblematic logo of the Worldwide Fund for Nature),  drink (e.g. bamboo beer),  medicine/therapy (e.g. ‘bamboo massage’),  construction (it makes a recyclable, light-weight alternative to the metal pipes and tubes commonly used as scaffolding outside of southeast Asia), paper (e.g. ‘ghost money’), textiles (not just ladies’ undergarments, such as bustles and ribs of corsets) and music (e.g. flutes). Added to that list – albeit from a non-human perspective – is the report by Kadaba Seshadri et al. that documents use of bamboo as a breeding base for Indian frogs. Chalazodes bubble-nest frog, Raorchestes chalazodes, and the Ochlandrae reed frog, R. ochlandrae, were observed to use the bamboos Ochlandra travancorica and O. setigera, respectively, in this novel reproductive behaviour in the Western Ghats (India). This unique life history involved adult frogs entering the hollow internodes of the bamboo through small openings (presumed to have been made by insects or rodents), depositing developing eggs within, and providing parental care. However, having now recognised their bamboo-dependence, a concern is that over-harvesting of the bamboo by humans outside of protected areas (for paper and pulp) threatens survival of the bamboo-nesting frog species, especially R. chalazodes, which is already known to be critically endangered in the wild. I don’t know – as if another dire warning of amphibian disease by the ‘chytrid fungus’ Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans wasn’t already enough to make these critters hopping mad!

 

[Ever-mischievous, P. Cuttings wonders if he’s found a 1002nd bamboo use – as biodegradable coffins for any frogs who ‘croak’ whilst engaged in babysitting duties within the bamboo… – Ed.]

Plants, grafty little critters…

Image: Richard Reames/Wikimedia Commons, www.arborsmith.com.

Image: Richard Reames/Wikimedia Commons, www.arborsmith.com.

When it comes to making new combinations of genes – which may help to generate new species  in the evolutionary process known as speciation – the most usual route in eukaryotes  is via sexual reproduction.  In this ancient process, and speaking rather generally, gametes, made via meiosis (in which the complement of genetic material is reduced), fuse with each other and thereby create a new individual with the full genetic complement of the adult. Generally, this mode of reproduction, whether leading to development of new species or not, is viewed as ‘good’. And sex is favoured during adaptation to new environments. But sex is also ‘expensive’,  and one might expect some organisms to have found a cheaper – better? – way. Although alternatives to sexual reproduction exist – so-called asexual reproduction –  they don’t generate the genetic variety that could give rise to creation [oops, controversial term… – Ed.] of new species.

But, guess what? Plants seem to have hit upon an asexual method that can give rise to new species, as work by Ignacia Fuentes et al., straightforwardly entitled ‘Horizontal genome transfer as an asexual path to the formation of new species’, suggests. Using grafting (a time-honoured, horticultural technique used to join parts from two or more plants so that they appear to grow as a single plant), the team demonstrated that entire nuclear genomes  could be transferred between plant cells of unlike species (and which you wouldn’t expect to be able to be able to reproduce sexually in nature…). Or, in the technical language of a scientific paper, the authors ‘provide direct evidence for this process resulting in speciation by creating a new allopolyploid  plant species from a herbaceous species (Nicotiana tabacum, ‘cigarette tobacco’) and a woody species (N. glauca, ‘tree tobacco’) in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).  The new species is fertile and produces fertile progeny’ (and has even been christened N. tabauca).

All intriguing stuff. And which just goes to demonstrate – again, and if ’twere needed – how much more interesting (better?) plants are than animals! Finally, the authors suggest that this phenomenon could be exploited for the generation of novel allopolyploid crop species. But where will this all end? And isn’t this genetic engineering? Albeit of a kind that occurs naturally? And what should one make of the tree that’s been so multiply and repeatedly grafted that it’s a composite of dozens of different species? Or is it now just one species…? Discuss!

[Ed. – For more on plant grafting, why not check out Charles Melnyk and Elliot Meyerowitz’s ‘primer’ entitled “Plant grafting” in Current Biology 25(5): R184-R188, 2015 [doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.01.029]? (Which may freely be available from: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdf/S0960-9822%2815%2900060-3.pdf). For more on the first author’s grafting ambitions in Arabidopsis and Zea mays, visit http://www.slcu.cam.ac.uk/directory/melnyk-charles, and http://www.slcu.cam.ac.uk/research/meyerowitz-group for ‘Distinguished Associate’ Elliot Meyerowitz]

Garlic and octopus battle tree disease

Image: From Tacuinum Sanitatis, ca. 1400.

Image: From Tacuinum Sanitatis, ca. 1400.

For millennia, garlic, the ‘bulb’ of Allium sativum, has been used medicinally to help make humans better. Whilst many of these so-called ‘cures’ may be more fanciful than factually accurate, evidence-based medicine, there are studies that attest to the effectiveness of garlic or extracts thereof and therefrom against a range of human health-compromising bacteria and fungi (e.g. studies by Giles Elsom et al.Simon Woods-Panzaru et al. and Daniel Tagoe et al.). Indeed, so commonplace have such ideas become that garlic can be used as an educational tool investigating the anti-microbial effects of plant extracts. So much for humans: Is this relevant to looking after the health of, say, trees? Well, apparently so. In the battle against fungal diseases of trees, garlic has been mobilised with some success in Northamptonshire (a county in the east Midlands of the UK). Jonathan Cocking (Managing Director of Arboricultural & Ecological Consultants, JCA Ltd), whose company hold an ‘experimental government licence’ to engage in this work, use an allicin*-based solution administered directly to the base of trees. The solution is injected into an infected tree through eight pipes (the ‘octopus’ connection…) and transported throughout the tree via the transpiration stream. Apparently, ‘the moment the active agent starts to encounter the disease, it destroys it’, BBC Environment Correspondent Claire Marshall explains. Although details of the formula used are not forthcoming, it apparently uses organically-grown cloves from Wales, and somehow the allicin involved is stable for up to one year (rather than the usual 5–10 minutes’ lifespan of the molecule(!)). According to JCA’s website, their ‘Allicin/Conquer Project’ was started in 2009, and so far has had success against such fungus/oomycete infections as Bleeding Canker of Horse ChestnutSudden Oak Death,  Acute Oak Decline and Chalara dieback of ash. Although seemingly effective, widespread use of this treatment is considered impractical and expensive, and is unlikely to be used except to save trees of ‘historic or sentimental value’. It’s always reassuring to know that it’s still down to ‘value’(and that so-predictable human obsession with money/profit, etc…) as to which trees are allowed to die and which are worthy of being saved (in the UK, at least; I’m sure elsewhere in the world a much more enlightened attitude to saving trees prevails…). Anyway, let’s just hope the 10 finalists in England’s ‘Tree of the Year’ competition are in that ‘sufficiently worthy’ category should they succumb to some life-threatening infection, whether fungal or oomycete (or viral or bacterial or mycoplasmal or prionic, or …)!

* Allicin, ‘garlic’s defence mechanism against attacks by pests’.

[I expect it’s been considered (and ruled out), but, mindful of reports of viruses accompanying imported garlic and the fact that plants are attacked by a wide range of virus pathogens, one trusts that the Welsh allicin, as organic as it no doubt is, is sourced from virus-free garlic and doesn’t pose a virus-infection threat to the trees into which it is injected… – Ed.]

Prize-winning banana research

Image: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, http://www.flagstaffotos.com.au.

Image: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, http://www.flagstaffotos.com.au.

Readers of this blog will probably be aware of the high esteem/newsworthiness in which bananas (edible fruits, botanically a berry – a new snippet of information to me! – produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa) are regarded. Well, in keeping with that musan leitmotif, here’s another banana-themed item. At the 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony in 2014, Kiyoshi Mabuchi et al. were suitably rewarded for their work investigating ‘why bananas are slippery’. Before this revelation elicits the anticipated “Eh? What?! They gave a prize for that??” reaction it should be pointed out that the Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded for achievements that make people laugh, but then think. In this case the Japanese tribologists’ work not only showed why banana skins are so hazardous (the comedic value of people slipping on discarded banana ‘skins’ has been known for generations), but also why apple and tangerine peel are not so ‘dangerous’. OK, so much for the ‘laugh’, what about the ‘thinking’? The team is interested in how friction and lubrication affect the movement of human limbs. The polysaccharide follicular gels that give banana skins their slippery properties are also found in the membranes in our own bodies where our bones meet and it is hoped that the botanical work will ultimately help in the development of a joint prosthesis. Banana research, going out on a limb?

 

[Ig Nobel Prizes (administered by Improbable Research) should not be confused with the more prestigious Nobel Prizes, whose list of prize-winners for 2014 didn’t include any banana-related research (so far as one could tell!). It is, however, noteworthy that Ig Nobels are presented for work done relatively recently; work that earns a ‘proper Nobel’ often takes years for it to be recognised. We would be interested to hear of any Ig Nobel Prize-winners who have gone on to win a Nobel Prize for their ‘ignoble’ work. Who’d have the last laugh then? Something to think about! – Ed.]

Timeless inner beauty…

Image: P. Cuttings’ personal archive.

Image: P. Cuttings’ personal archive.

When trying to appreciate something, it’s often remarked that it is the ‘inner beauty’ that’s important. In which case the plant cell biologists who probe the details within cells (and often illuminate them in all their glorious pin-point precision and fluorescent beauty with immunofluorescent techniques*) must not only, as scientists, be seekers of truth (for is it not writ, in scientia veritas?)  but also be true searchers after beauty. And if something’s really beautiful/true then it has a quality that transcends normal, mortal values and should be permanent. Is that correct? Well, the palaeopteridophytological work of Benjamin Bomfleur et al. may just be the definitive proof of that notion of transcendental permanence. Using language unusual for a serious, sober, scientific article, they describe the fossilised stem of a royal fern (family: Osmundaceae) in Lahar deposits (of putative Early Jurassic – Pliensbachian – date; 189.6–183 million years ago) from Korsaröd in Scania (southern Sweden) as having cellular details that are ‘exquisitely preserved’. Amongst the sub-cellular features discernible are parenchyma cells in the pith and cortex that show preserved membrane-bound cytoplasm, cytosol granules and putative amyloplasts (starch-bearing bodies). Furthermore, most cells contain interphase nuclei with conspicuous nucleoli! And – even more remarkably? – Supplementary Fig. S6 shows detail that is interpreted as signs of necrosis and programmed cell death(!). Whilst more importance is attached by the authors to the fact that the genome size of these reputed ‘living fossils’ has remained unchanged over at least 180 million years (and is understandably viewed as a ‘paramount example of evolutionary stasis’), the degree of internal preservation of cell contents is so good (see Figs S4 and S6 in the paper’s supplementary material!) I’m sure many extant workers could only hope to emulate such faithful preservation in their current work! So, not only is a thing of beauty a joy, it is a joy… forever (or 180 million years at least – long enough for you?). Somebody should write a poem about that!

* For a scientific haiku poem about this, may I humbly suggest the following? Page 15 at the Art Science Movement’s website.

 

[For an award-winning science journalist’s take on Bomfleur et al.’s Science paper, see Jennifer Frazer’s blog. Full-text of the paper – with supplementary pages – appears to be available in front of a paywall via the DiVA portal. And with apologies to our readers for the shameless self-advertisement by Mr P. Cuttings for his ‘poem’! – Ed.]