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Author Topic: Can we see evolutionary throwback structures in plants?  (Read 679 times)

Offline jckatz

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This spring I saw some plants that when they were young were a bright rust color and as they got a little bit older it turned a normal green. 

This got me wondering, if we see things in mammal embryos like tales and gills are we able to see the "evolutionary history" of plant life?


 

Offline puppypower

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Re: Can we see evolutionary throwback structures in plants?
« Reply #1 on: 09/07/2016 13:52:47 »
An interesting tree that may have the answer is the maidenhair tree;

Quote
Ginkgo biloba, known as ginkgo, also spelled gingko, or as the maidenhair tree, is the only living species in the division Ginkgophyta, all others being extinct. It is found in fossils dating back 270 million years

This tree is still around and can often be found as a specimen tree in parks.  It makes a stone fruit than looks like an apricot. The mature orange fruit smells like a mixture of puke and feces. The part you eat is the nut inside the fruit pit, which actually has a good taste. The tree turns bright yellow during the fall. The leaves and fruit grow on short stems along main branches and has a very unique leaf shape. It is a living dinosaur among trees.

There are a few specimen growing in a park where I walk my dog. It grows as both male and female trees, with the male often preferred as a specimen tree, since it does not make the stinky fruit. One of the female trees in the park caught my eye in the fall with its tempting looking orange fruit. The fruit looks like it would be sweet like an apricot.

I tried it once, not knowing what it was. It tasted good for about 2-seconds then yuck. I learned a few minutes later, from a fellow walker, the fruit  has a chemical that can cause a skin reaction like poison ivy. I was ready for my mouth to swell up, but I guess I was immune. After google searching the tree, I collected about a liter of the fruit for the seeds. You hold your breath and clean off all the fruit pulp, and then wash and dry the seeds which look like giant hard cherry pits; 1 cm. You roast the seeds in a little oil and like popcorn, until they open up so you can eat the green kernel, which tastes surprisingly good. It is supposed to improve memory, but I forgot if it worked.

It is said that the nut improves memory.  If this was true, that would mean the tree helps it symbiotic animal to remember their experience with the tree. However, after a few years of observation, I never see birds or squirrels eating the fruit or collecting its nuts. There may be an animal that goes with this tree, but not in that park. But the lack of interest by the squirrels could be due to the large number of oak trees and acorn in the park, which are much easier for the squirrels to open.
 
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Offline puppypower

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Re: Can we see evolutionary throwback structures in plants?
« Reply #2 on: 10/07/2016 12:17:30 »
One further observation is the branches on this tree do not divide as much as modern trees. The tree has main branches that come out from the trunk. However, these truck branches don't sub-divide beyond that. Instead, each trunk branch has many smaller 1-10 cm inch long stub branches along its length, on which the fruit and leaves grow. These stubs remind me of the little spurs on an apple tree where the apples appear. 

 

Offline jckatz

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Re: Can we see evolutionary throwback structures in plants?
« Reply #3 on: 19/07/2016 19:12:26 »
Puppy Power. That is very interesting and I'm so happy your mouth didn't blow up...  However that would have been a good test of the ginko's memory properties if you remember not to put strange fruit in your mouth.

Those are examples of living fossils.  I was wondering about in the embro state still inside the seed.  Do you see structures that come and then disappear before the plants sees the world.

I'm thinking in human embryos we have rudimentary gills and tails, that later get exhorbed.

 

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Re: Can we see evolutionary throwback structures in plants?
« Reply #3 on: 19/07/2016 19:12:26 »

 

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