Science News

Biology News Round-Up 17/11

Nastiya brings together all the interesting Plant-related news items from the last few weeks, give us a shout if you’ve found out anything and we’ll feature it in next week’s post!

Brand New Worm Discovered!

Stop the press! It turns out that there’s still hope for those budding scientists looking to mark their place in history by discovering a new speices of the natural world – and it turns out you don’t have to travel half the world away to do it either. Elaine Roll, a science technician working at Cornwall College Newquay, discovered this adorable new species of flatworm in her very own backgarden whilst hunting for slugs for a practical lesson.

marionfyfea-adventor

After members of her class brought the interesting specimen to her during a lesson, Elaine struggled to find a record for it anywhere online. After sending the little fellow off to Dr. Hugh Jones of the University of Manchester, the good news was returned that this was indeed a newly discovered creature. Marionfyfea adventor was successfully identified and shows that the next discovery could be just a potter in the back garden away! The full story can be found here…

Nanobionic Spinach Is Newest Threat To Terror

Watch out ISIS, there’s a new combatant to your troublesome antics and it comes in a form that you might not expect. No longer content with being the ‘superfood’ that is the bane of every child’s dinner, Spinach has arisen to become the next step in anti-terror measures. Scientists at MIT have been working on a new kind of science that they’ve branded ‘plant nanobionics’. The melding of plant matter with microscopic engineering electronic systems has granted spinach with ability to detect explosives and relay this information wirelessly to devices similar to a smartphone.

Although the physical applications of this technology might well be a long way off, this stands as the first important step in the process of fusing plant life with electronics – watch this space.

Age old answer to question: Do Vegetarians Live Longer?

It’s something that’s been argued for a long time – with the rise of Raw foods and the fashionable nature of Veganism – the question of whether it really is healthier to avoid meat all together may have finally been answered by Dr. Brown from Aston University, Birmingham. He’s been conducting long term research into the effect that meat eating has one the longevity of the average human’s life. Although he’s spent a long time compiling data from the dozens of research studies that have been conducted over the years – his advice does still come with a proviso.

steak-dinner

Although his findings point towards a meat-free lifestyle improving life-span, Dr. Brown is very eager to press the point that there are dozesn of other factors that also effect this. Environmental as well as genetic affects can vary wildly so, although it might be a smart move to cut down on the steaks, it won’t necessarily stop you from developing another disease that seriously shortens your life. His article for theconversation.com is well worth a read for more information.

5 of the World’s Scariest Plants

Plants can be just  as scary as anything else Mother Nature can throw at us…

Here are 5 of the World’s Most Monstrous Plants that you should definitely avoid this Halloween:

The Vampire Vine

This particular species of the Cuscata vine has the positively vampiric skill of sniffing out and sucking the nutrients out of nearby plants. Soy beans, coffee beans and grape vines are all at risk of these vicious vines (which are closely related to the much friendlier Morning Glory). However, there is one pant that has figured out a way to stop the Cuscata in it’s tracks. The C. reflexa Tomato plant, from Asia, has the uncanny skill of reflexively forming an impenetrable scan, preventing the cuscata from penetrating with his sharp fangs.

dodder

Find out more about the ‘Vampire Vine’ here at ScienceNews.org

The Venus Fly Trap

A long used trope in the realms of video games and science-fiction movies alike, Dionaea muscipulae may only be able to grow up to 15cm tall, but their 3cm wide mouths still have the potential to swallow up and digest all manner of insect-life. Each leaf of this killer-plant has two primary regions. The ‘leaf-base’ functions like most other plant leave, carrying out photosynthesis so that the plant can continue to grow and the ‘lamina’ that composes the trap itself. Within each trap lies between two or five ‘trigger hairs’ which, if touched, cause the trap to shut tight – trapping any unfortunate insect souls inside.

venus-fly

Discover more about the Venus Fly Trap here at ScienceMag.org

Carrion Flowers

The Carrion Flower is both disgusting by name and by nature. Strictly speaking, the term applies to any plant that gives off the scent of rotting flesh or death. The most horrific example of this would have to be the Amorphophallus titanum – it’s Greek name is derived from the words ‘giant misshapen phallus’ – rather on the nose, but succinct nonetheless. They can weigh up to 50kg, although there have been some specimens known to grow to almost twice that weight. Why does it smell so bad, you ask? The smell of rotting has long been something that pollinators find attractive – mistaking the carrion flower for a dead animal, carrion beetles and flesh flies do all the hard work for the plant – using them to lay eggs in their flesh.

carrion-flower

National Geographic has the scoop on Carrion Flowers here…

Rafflesia

The Rafflesia is a peculiar creature. Strictly parasitic by nature, it has no stems, leaves or even roots. Grabbing hold of any vine that it can find in it’s indigenous home of the Southeastern Asia rain forests, there are 28 species of these strange creatures that are often confused with aforementioned Carrion Flower, Amorphophallus titanum. The titanum is often referred to as being the largest flower – leaving the unsung hero, the Rafflesia, out in the cold. Unknown to many, the Rafflesia has largest single flower of any plant. It’s large, bulbous and grotesque – but it’s also a record-breaker.

rafflesia-sabah

Kew Garden’s fact sheet on the Rafflesia has all the knowledge on these guys.

Tree tumbo

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the Welwitschia is some kind of washed up piece of seaweed, if it weren’t for the fact that it only grown in the Namib desert, within Namibia and Angola. Often referred to as a ‘living fossil’ it is the only living genus within it’s family making it a uniquely sad plant. Named after it’s discoverer Friedrich Welwitsch – upon finding the plant he was said to have knelt by it in disbelief, fearing that it was a a figment of his imagination. If only that were so. The leaves that grow on this plant are permanent, giving it a dead-like look.

tree-tumbo

LiveScience.com has the scoop on this endangered plant right here.