hiding in plain sight
November 20, 2020 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Chinese flower has evolved to be less visible to pickers "Scientists have discovered that the colour of the plant’s leaves has become more camouflaged – matching the background rocks on which they grow – in areas where there is more harvesting pressure from people."
posted by dhruva (19 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
The actual paper is still under embargo.
posted by dhruva at 9:32 AM on November 20


Why would this be categorized as evolution instead of human influence? Nature vs nurture?
posted by bolix at 10:10 AM on November 20


Human influence can cause evolution like any other pressure, bolix. We distinguish between intentional human selection-for and other kinds of survival pressure, but the process doesn’t.
posted by clew at 10:35 AM on November 20 [11 favorites]


Humans are the selective force here. Another example is the evolution of smaller tusks in African elephants due to poaching.
posted by dhruva at 10:36 AM on November 20 [7 favorites]


Kind of tells me flowers don't like being picked. We humans tend to assume all living beings exist for us to take from even when they show they are trying to resist.
posted by xarnop at 11:02 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


From the perspective of a gardener, this makes perfect sense. When you harvest a plant, you're selecting for something, and it's worth thinking about what you're selecting for.

For example, if you're growing with the intention of eating the plant, you'll harvest the biggest, most productive ones before they've set seed. Any seed that results will be from small, late-growing plants. If you're growing with the intention of saving the seed, you'll let the biggest, most productive plants go to seed and eat the smaller, less productive ones. The seed you get will be from the best plants, and the plants you grow next year will likely be hardier and better adapted to your conditions.
posted by Lexica at 11:15 AM on November 20 [18 favorites]


Sometimes I believe I experience human affected selection when I get a small outbreak of fruit flies that wind up 'coming home' with me when I shop at certain produce markets. All the slower, easier to swat flies have been eliminated from the market's gene pool. The remainder have all been selected for speed and so their offspring are also faster. Amirite?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 11:53 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


Kind of tells me flowers don't like being picked. We humans tend to assume all living beings exist for us to take from even when they show they are trying to resist.

Plants have evolved all kinds of defenses from predation. Curiously, people have co-evolved to tolerate a lot of plant defensive toxins, which can now function as medicines and we even delight in some of the more nasty defenses (capsaicin being the big example). The ecosystem is a constant struggle of different parts against each other.
posted by srboisvert at 12:38 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


What a tragic metaphor for the times we live in
posted by polymodus at 12:42 PM on November 20


It is like the knowledge that a farmer shouldn't use his left-over corn for planting--he should use his best corn. I learned that from the Planet of the Apes TV series of all things (yes, that existed).
posted by eye of newt at 12:59 PM on November 20 [7 favorites]


Kind of tells me flowers don't like being picked. We humans tend to assume all living beings exist for us to take from even when they show they are trying to resist.
What it tells me is that in populations of Fritillaria delavayi there's a distribution of alleles that control the color of the plant's leaves and flowers, and that in places where humans do a lot of hunting for this plant (the desired part turns out to be a bulb, not the flower itself as reported) the plants with the alleles that produce brightly-colored leaves and flowers tend not to live long enough to make seeds.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 1:16 PM on November 20 [22 favorites]


"What it tells me is that in populations of Fritillaria delavayi there's a distribution of alleles that control the color of the plant's leaves and flowers, and that in places where humans do a lot of hunting for this plant (the desired part turns out to be a bulb, not the flower itself as reported) the plants with the alleles that produce brightly-colored leaves and flowers tend not to live long enough to make seeds."

I feel like we could describe humans in the same kind of language. A group of cells that have adapted to function and maintain homeostasis. Yet despite that it's all just molecules and atoms- we experience this life as something more.

We choose to regard other living beings or not and given we don't know for sure, considering the possibility other beings can feel seems a basic decent thing to do for other living beings that seem to using biological sciency process to survive- just like we are?
posted by xarnop at 2:52 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


So the Peppered Moth phenomenon again?
posted by bartleby at 3:35 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


This is exactly the same process by which gardeners and nurserymen deliberately select plants for larger fruit or more colourful flowers, but in reverse. Humans are selecting and removing the brighter plants, leaving the less colourful ones to multiply.
posted by Fuchsoid at 4:28 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


the possibility other beings can feel

I'm quite open to that possibility but that other beings might feel does not entail that they feel the same things (or the same way about things) as we do. That's another kind of human arrogance.
posted by atoxyl at 5:41 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


As an American, it’s refreshing to hear the story is “human harvesting has pressured this flower to hide better” and not “factory farming has resulted in this flower growing twice as large and blooming twice as fast, but it has lost all medicinal benefit (and flavor)”
posted by ejs at 6:00 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


people have co-evolved to tolerate a lot of plant defensive toxins, which can now function as medicines and we even delight in some of the more nasty defenses (capsaicin being the big example).

This reminds me of an exchange that was doing the rounds a while ago:
Wisewoman: hello little plant what happens if I eat you?
Toxic plant: you shit yourself until you die
Wisewoman: interesting. What happens if I only eat a little bit of you?
Toxic plant: you shit yourself a little bit
Wisewoman: hey everyone I found a treatment for constipation
Toxic plant: ಠ_ಠ
posted by um at 7:08 PM on November 20 [13 favorites]


We choose to regard other living beings or not and given we don't know for sure, considering the possibility other beings can feel seems a basic decent thing to do for other living beings that seem to using biological sciency process to survive- just like we are?

consiering the possibility seem to using that most hubristic human perspective possible is to anthropomorphizing complex natural process and reduce to “plants don’t wanna be picked”
posted by invitapriore at 10:01 PM on November 20


This is like the lost twin of Vavilovian mimicry who went into hiding after their school years.
posted by runcifex at 1:25 AM on November 21 [3 favorites]


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