Readers react to million-year-old mammoths, parasitic vegetation and extra

Massive mouths to feed

The oldest animal DNA but recovered comes from a mammoth that lived over 1 million years in the past, Erin Garcia de Jesús reported in “Million-year-old mammoth DNA discovered” (SN: 3/13/21, p. 6).

Contemplating {that a} fashionable elephant can eat a whole lot of kilograms of plant meals per day, what might the mammoth have eaten within the frozen tundra, reader Peter Nissenson requested.

Researchers don’t know for positive what the traditional animal might have eaten. However like different mammoths, its menu might have included flowers and grasses (SN: 3/22/14, p. 13). Current research recommend that dwindling meals sources contributed to the demise of most mammoths about 10,000 years in the past, Garcia de Jesús says. “In order the flowers disappeared, so too, maybe, did the mammoths.”

A wild escape

Escaped genes from modified cotton crops are disrupting wild cotton’s interactions with bugs, inflicting irreversible ecological results, Emiliano Rodríguez Mega reported in “Modified genes might hurt wild cotton” (SN: 3/13/21, p. 10).

Reader Marc Sapir questioned why the consequences are irreversible if wild cotton vegetation with the escaped genes struggled extra to outlive than these with out.

As soon as the genes escape, we will not management how they behave or the place they go, Rodríguez Mega says. That doesn’t essentially imply the genes will devastate wild cotton populations. However there at the moment isn’t a approach for scientists to rid these populations of the genes.

The genes might disappear if they’re chosen in opposition to by pure forces, Rodríguez Mega says, however we don’t know that that can occur. Extra research are wanted to grasp the long-term results the escaped genes might have within the wild.

What makes a plant?

A parasitic plant, Sapria himalayana, has misplaced genes for stems, roots and photosynthetic tissue to reside inside its hosts, Jake Buehler reported in “A parasitic plant is lacking many genes” (SN: 3/13/21, p. 13).

Given all that S. himalayana has misplaced, “is it even nonetheless a plant?” reader Jeff Fisher requested. Might it’s one thing totally new?

Biologists group organisms based mostly on their shared evolutionary historical past, so S. himalayana remains to be thought-about a plant, Buehler says. However taxonomists and different researchers have lengthy debated at what level an organism deviates sufficient from its ancestral line to earn a singular taxonomic rank. There at the moment isn’t a typical that scientists use to find out these bounds, Buehler says.

Researchers discovered that the parasite has taken plenty of DNA from its hosts, although a lot of it doesn’t encode any genes, Buehler reported. Reader D.C. Randle questioned why the plant would trouble pilfering this genetic materials.

A few of the stolen DNA do encode genes. And people genes could also be helpful, Buehler says. Some are concerned within the parasite’s protection and stress responses, and one other is instrumental in making pyrimidine, an important constructing block of nucleic acids like DNA.

Flying excessive

Microfliers powered by daylight might fly in circumstances like these excessive in Earth’s environment, Emily Conover reported in “Tiny plane that fly by gentle might soar past airplanes’ attain” (SN: 3/13/21, p. 5).

Reader William S. Darter questioned how scalable these microfliers is likely to be.

“The elevate forces produced on this case are fairly small, so the plane and its devices should be extraordinarily gentle,” Conover says. That makes the plane a problem to scale up. “One concept can be to create arrays of microfliers related by skinny carbon fibers. That might permit the microfliers to hold extra large payloads, although nonetheless solely within the vary of grams.”


“Two new books seek for the that means of life” (SN: 3/27/21, p. 28) incorrectly acknowledged that an individual’s metabolism will increase to about 0.5 occasions its resting price after consuming. Metabolism will increase to about 1.5 occasions the resting price.

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