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From Deception to Murder

Looking back at the plant news from September 2015, I noticed that several of the more popular stories were involved with what I’ll call the “dark side” of plants.

One of the best parts of the classic book by the late Professor Bastiaan Meeuse The Sex Lives of Flowers is about sexual deception of some orchids. A new report published last September provides new insights into this marvelous example of plant-insect co-evolution.

In a case of, perhaps unintended, deception of the human kind, the website Retraction Watch posted an article last Fall about two plant scientists whose research has been seriously questioned.

How many living trees exist on Earth? A new estimate was published last September. “The figure is eight times as big as the previous best estimate,…

In a time of relatively rapid and uncertain climate change, it is very important to breed new crop varieties to cope with these challenges. And anything that can speed up the often lengthy plant breeding process is very welcome. Some Belgian scientists have done just that by using genetics to predict plant size.

One of the truisms often stated by biologists is: “Viruses are not really alive.” Well, a new study begs to differ….

Finally, forensic botany is a fascinating topic. (Please see HERE, for example.) In a brief (2 min) audio clip from the BBC, a forensic scientist tells why he likes brambles (a.k.a., blackberry bushes).

  • Many orchids are masters of sexual deception, tricking male insects into pollinating their flowers by producing chemicals that precisely mimic female insects’ sex pheromones. Now, ecologists have discovered that orchids dupe male insects by mimicking how female insects look, as well as how they smell.The art of deception: why morphology matters in flowers’ pulling power.
  • A nearly ten-year-long series of investigations into a pair of plant physiologists who received millions in funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation has resulted in debarments of less than two years for each of the researchers.NSF investigation of high-profile plant retractions ends in two debarments.
  • How many trees are there on planet Earth? A new estimate may surprise you.
  • …scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling.Scientists learn how to predict plant size.
  • A new analysis supports the hypothesis that viruses are living entities that share a long evolutionary history with cells, researchers report.Study adds to evidence that viruses are alive.
  • Forensic scientist Dr Mark Spencer explains why brambles are a useful tool in his work.How brambles can help solve murder cases (audio clip).

    To be continued….

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