One genome, two plants
May 12, 2013 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Mosses Make Two Different Plants From the Same Genome, and a Single Gene Can Make the Difference
One of the most astonishing secrets in biology is this: every plant you see makes two different plants from the same genome. And, scientists recently reported, a single gene from an ancient, powerful lineage can make the difference.
posted by Joe in Australia (24 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Change what moss you are using this one weird old gene.
posted by HeroZero at 7:05 PM on May 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Moss is both pretty and smart! I knew I made the right choice when I neglected my back lawn deliberately chose to let moss flourish in the shady part of my back yard.
posted by maudlin at 7:32 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you!
posted by moss at 8:12 PM on May 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


So while I worked as a biochemist for like 20 years, I came up on the chemistry side of things and only had three hours of biology in college and so, what I really want to know is, would it have killed one of my biologist colleagues to explain this to me as a plausible mechanism for the xenomorph face hugger / chest burster lifecycle? I mean I was always willing to tell them how to make up a 50 mMolar solution from concentrated acid!

Ungrateful bastards!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:57 PM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Don't click on this video.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:58 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Astonishing secret or dry old factoid freshman level biology professors tell a classroom of kids who aren't listening?

Just want until the author finds out about the life cycle of your average fungus. Hoo, boy.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 9:49 PM on May 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


They called this "alternation of generations" when I studied botany many moons ago. It kind of blew my mind, not because of the implications for plant life, but because it suggested that the human reproductive process was an even more refined version of this - our gametes are reduced and stripped down to the bare minimum, but they do have a brief life of their own.

So my spermatozoa are billions and billions of little haploid mini-mes, all but one of whom lived a brief and pointless existence.
posted by Max Udargo at 11:22 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


a plausible mechanism for the xenomorph face hugger / chest burster lifecycle

There are real parasites with much weirder lifecycles than the xenomorph.
posted by ryanrs at 11:22 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are real parasites with much weirder lifecycles than the xenomorph.

Yeah, like isn't there a wasp that injects it's larva into a caterpillar, which then take over the caterpillar's nervous system causing it to crawl to a suitable location for the caterpillar to sit while the larva eats it from the inside out?
posted by delmoi at 12:55 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


...take over the caterpillar's nervous system causing it to crawl to a suitable location for the caterpillar to sit while the larva eats it from the inside out?

Yes, but there are even weirder ones. Like a thing that turns ants into zombies so they stand up on top of grass blades, where they will be eaten by sheep and then excreted near a snail and so forth.
posted by DU at 4:28 AM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah I would have linked to examples but they are all unspeakably gross.
posted by ryanrs at 5:41 AM on May 13, 2013


"So while I worked as a biochemist for like 20 years, I came up on the chemistry side of things and only had three hours of biology in college and so, what I really want to know is, would it have killed one of my biologist colleagues to explain this to me as a plausible mechanism for the xenomorph face hugger / chest burster lifecycle? I mean I was always willing to tell them how to make up a 50 mMolar solution from concentrated acid!"
I hate to break it to you, but there is no need to invent a plausible mechanism, Xenomorphs are very real.

Well, at least they are based on real parasitoid creatures and so to get a good answer to this kind of question you can just look at those parasitoid life cycles - I made a huge post about one of them a little while ago that you might be interested in.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:27 AM on May 13, 2013


> a plausible mechanism for the xenomorph face hugger / chest burster lifecycle

Assuming those bad boys represent Life As We Know It (meaning in this case that they haven't come up with some total alternative to the DNA-makes-RNA-makes-protein central dogma of Earthly biology) we really don't even know if they're a case of alternation of generation (haploid stage, diploid stage) or just a metamorphosis as in very hungry caterpillar becomes beautiful butterfly with both phases being diploid as usual, meh.

Just me, but when I talk about "life as we DON'T know it" I mean stuff like time-travelling energy beings who live in the cores of stars, and other such critters that a deep knowledge of pteridophyte life cycles probably won't help you with much. If at all.

Topic drift R us. Favorite memory trick for biology 101 exam cram: What does the H stand for in "Jesus H. Christ"?
posted by jfuller at 7:01 AM on May 13, 2013


What does the H stand for in "Jesus H. Christ"? Harry.
posted by marienbad at 7:41 AM on May 13, 2013


Mary insisted that his middle name was "Haploid." YOU go ahead and call her a liar.
posted by maudlin at 8:06 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just popping in to share my favorite gametophyte (from a fern). Appropriate for Valentine's Day, anniversaries, etc.

...What, you don't have a favorite gametophyte?
posted by pemberkins at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I was gonna say meh, who cares, this is freshman bio stuff I taught for 8 semesters as a grad student. Then I got to the real meat of the linked post, which is that there are analogs to the HOX genes- which control development in animals- in plants, called KNOX genes.

That is really really cool- and makes me want to be teaching intro bio again so I can share that fact, especially with the one or two students per lab section that actually saw moss as the awesome, bizarre survivor of a plant that it is.
posted by rockindata at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mary insisted that his middle name was "Haploid." YOU go ahead and call her a liar.

If Jesus had only a mother and no father he would have to have been a girl. The Y chromosome that makes males is contributed by the father. Thus, Mary was a liar.
posted by binturong at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2013


Fine. Call her a liar. I'll just be standing as far away from you as possible and waiting for the smell of ozone.
posted by maudlin at 9:48 AM on May 13, 2013


"If Jesus had only a mother and no father he would have to have been a girl. The Y chromosome that makes males is contributed by the father. Thus, Mary was a liar."

This line of reasoning requires subscription to the idea that genetic information that produced the Jesus gamete came exclusively from Mary, which I don't think is really what you or most anyone else believes happened. Also the relationship between karyotype and biological sex, much less gender or presentation, is a lot more complicated than that.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:56 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


...the idea that genetic information that produced the Jesus gamete came exclusively from Mary, which I don't think is really what you or most anyone else believes happened.

You can say that again.
posted by DU at 10:22 AM on May 13, 2013


Just want until the author finds out about the life cycle of your average fungus. Hoo, boy.

...some of which have not 1, not 2, but thousands of mating types. (Fortunately you just need to find a partner whose mating type differs from your own.)
posted by en forme de poire at 11:41 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


en forme de poire your link is bad and because it's clever I can't search for your intention.
posted by Mitheral at 7:28 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


argh, I always do that somehow. Try here and here.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:04 AM on May 14, 2013


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