Biology Botany Chemistry 

Microbes Help Plants Survive Heavy Metal Stress

By Radhika Desikan When you hear the term heavy metal, what do you think of? Music or chemistry? Exposure to heavy metal music can cause stress in some humans. But what about chemical heavy metals? Are they good or bad for the environment and living organisms? In chemical terms, heavy metals are elements in earth’s crust that have a high density (weight), and they include zinc, copper, iron, silver, gold, arsenic, lead, and cobalt, to name a few. While trace amounts of heavy metals such as copper, iron, cobalt, and…

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Anthropology Biology Botany Chemistry 

Leaf Age Matters for Plant Survival

By Radhika Desikan Does age really matter? For us humans, age seems to be a very sensitive issue relevant to how we live our lives. And while it also matters to plants, it does so at a different level. Some of our tissues, like skin, have cells that are constantly dividing (to replace dead cells) and therefore differ in age, but what defines our age as an organism is not the life span of individual cells in our body, but rather the length of time that has passed since our…

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Biology Biota Project Ecology 

The Millions of Microbes Beneath our Feet

By Nicholas Dove (@nicholascdove), for The Biota Project Microorganisms are everywhere on planet earth—on every surface, in the air, in the ground, and inside you. The good news is that many of these benefit you. Recent findings have shown that having a healthy gut microbiome (community of microorganisms) is important for proper digestion and even disease prevention (Penicillin is an antibacterial fungus that is used to treat many types of infections). Similarly, having a healthy soil microbiome is important to support plants and properly functioning ecosystems. Soil microbes play a…

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Biology Botany 

Plants Communicate with Neighbors in Response to Touch

By Radhika Desikan How well do you and your neighbour know each other? Chances are, very little these days. But some living things, including plants, know their neighbours well. According to new research, it appears that what one plant “feels” can also be sensed by its neighbouring plant. Isn’t that remarkable? It is a fact of life that plants do not move from one place to another. Therefore plants, unlike humans, cannot move away from any impending danger, be it a herbivore, a disease-causing microbe, or even the cold and…

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Biology Botany Chemistry 

To Grow or Not to Grow? Bacteria Make Seeds Think!

By Radhika Desikan A seed is the beginning of new life for most flowering plants. It has all the potential to develop into a new plant, with its own stored food used for germination (the sprouting of a seed). However, if you have done any gardening, you might know that not all seeds always germinate. Whether or not a seed grows into a plant is determined by a number of factors, such as the presence of oxygen, water, and the right temperature. Seeds have a remarkable ability to detect whether…

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Maize Biology 

Do We Really Need Fertilizers To Grow Crops?

By Radhika Desikan We all learn that plants can make their own food via a complex process called photosynthesis. However, to make their food, and to grow properly, plants need nutrients (chemicals) such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium from the soil. Although these chemicals are naturally present in most soils, years of intensive farming have depleted soils of these nutrients. As a result, humans have resorted to using artificial fertilizers, which are basically synthetic nutrients manufactured through a process that uses a lot of energy, and produces a lot…

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Biology Genetics 

Did Life On Earth Start as an RNA World?

By Emily Bentley You might not speak Latin, but you probably understand the concept of omnis cellula e cellula—all cells come from other cells. For several thousand years, many scholars endorsed the idea of spontaneous generation, which held that certain plants and animals are created whole from inorganic matter like dust, mud, or rotting meat. In 1668 this notion was disproved by Italian physician and biologist Francesco Redi. His experiments showed that maggots appeared only on meat that had been exposed to egg-laying flies, providing some of the first evidence…

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Biology Genetics Health 

Depression: In Our Genes or All In Our Heads?

By Mary McMillan (@maryemcmillan) World Health Organization estimated that more than 300 million people around the world are currently affected by depression. That’s just over 4 percent of the world’s population. Despite how serious this disorder is and the huge numbers of people that suffer from it, there is still a lot of stigma associated with having depression, and people often misunderstand what causes it (Jorm, 2000). You may have heard people say that depression is all in someone’s head and that they should just get over it. However, scientists…

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Animals Biology 

Seahorses Give a Whole New Meaning to “Dad Bod”

By Ive Velikova (@ScienceWithIve) Seahorses give a whole new meaning to the term “dad bod.” You see, they are one of the only animals species in which the males get pregnant and give birth. Let’s start with the basics. In biology, members of the species that produce sperm are generally classified as “male,” and members of the species that produce eggs are classified as “female.” Eggs are larger and more energetically costly to produce than sperm. They also contain materials and nutrients necessary for embryo growth once the eggs are…

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