JUN 14, 2017 12:28 PM PDT

The Tree Compass - Cook Pines Demonstrate Equator-Oriented Leaning

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

Ever got lost the woods? There are a few tricks that can help you find your way, for example the position of the sun in the sky, the direction of the big dipper and North Star, and the position of moss on trees. Now you can add Cook pines to the list - researchers discovered that the Cook pines, or Araucaria columnaris for the taxonomy enthusiasts out there, have the tendency of leaning toward the equator, wherever they grow.

It is well known that many life forms, beside human, have instinct for direction. A lot of them such as arthropods, molluscs and carrier pigeons utilize an ability called magnetoreception to navigate and travel. Also known as magnetoception (has nothing to do when Dr. Xavier’s frienemy) is a naturally existing instinct of an organism to sense direction under the guidance of a magnetic field (usually the one of Earth). Most human do not have a magnetic sense (who needs it when you have a compass), but there is a cryptochrome protein in human eyes which could theoretically serve this function.

Related reading: magnetoreception in animals

Intense Leaning of Cook Pines. Credit: Steve Lennie/Alamy Stock Photo

Named after Cpt. James Cook, the New Caledonia native species often grow up to 98 feet tall. As reported on the journal Ecology, a group of botanists from California Polytechnic State University measured 256 trees on five continents in 18 different regions (minimum 500 km apart between regions), spanning 7°–35° N and 12°–42° S latitude, including Cook pines’ native home. The height, trunk diameter at 1.5 m above ground, azimuth direction of lean, and the extent of lean of each tree was recorded and analyzed. The pattern was clear: the trees all lean toward the equator to various extend. What is more interesting, other species within the same family of trees don't behave this way at all.

Cook Pine Leaning Pattern. Credit: Ecology

Since there is no clear explanation for the leaning feature of Cook pines, the authors suspected that the deposit of starch producing organelles at the plant cell’s actin filament activated a signal pathway that leads to the asymmetric transport of growth hormone hence uneven growth at the tree stem. Genetic analysis of the species identified several gene families that are known to trigger phototropic (phototropism is the orientation of an organism in response to light) and gravitropic (gravitropism is the orientation or growth of plants and fungus in response to gravity) growth. Despite the preliminary findings, the mechanism(s) underlying the species’ directionality remain highly debatable. As the authors pointed out, the equator-oriented leaning could an adaptive response to a variety of factors such as angles of annual sunlight, gravity, magnetism, or any combination of these.

 

Source: CBC/Ecology (Journal)

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
MAR 19, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Back to the basics: improving solvents for better batteries
MAR 19, 2021
Back to the basics: improving solvents for better batteries
New research published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B from the University of Cincinnati describes using qua ...
MAR 23, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Honeybees send chemical messages by dancing
MAR 23, 2021
Honeybees send chemical messages by dancing
Remember playing telephone as a kid (or an adult)? It always brings a laugh when you try to pass a word or sentence alon ...
APR 14, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Why Delta-8-THC is Different to Regular THC
APR 14, 2021
Why Delta-8-THC is Different to Regular THC
In recent months, a cannabinoid known as delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased in popularity. While similar t ...
MAY 17, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Recycling: can we do it better?
MAY 17, 2021
Recycling: can we do it better?
Do you consider yourself an environmentally conscious citizen? You recycle, right? Maybe even compost? But did you know ...
MAY 28, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Are transparent solar cells in our near future?
MAY 28, 2021
Are transparent solar cells in our near future?
Scientists are searching for alternative technologies to replace traditional silicon solar cells and the limits of their ...
JUN 18, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
3D-printing new biocompatible biosensors
JUN 18, 2021
3D-printing new biocompatible biosensors
New 3D-printed bioinks developed by Purdue University and Los Alamos National Laboratory could improve surgical procedur ...
Loading Comments...