Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Learn with flowers

I’m reading an interesting book entitled “Brilliant Green” by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola, which shows the hidden intellectual world of plants. Surprising!

One of the book’s arguments is the hard way plant biologists take to get credit for the insightful science uncovered by their research. Only when similar conclusions are drawn for the animal kingdom will the scientific community recognize the research previously done for plants. Do you know that Francis Darwin, none other than Charles Darwin’s son, was a top researcher in plant biology? I didn’t.

Recently, in an article for Quanta Magazine, Jordana Cepelewicz synthesized the new developments in plant genetic research showing how flowers became the dominant plants because they skew their genome, downsizing it to allow greater diversity. Kevin Simonin, a plant biologist at San Francisco State University, who co-authored an important article on this topic said, “we now know that this not only contributed to their diversity but may have given angiosperms the metabolic advantage to outcompete the other plant groups,” like gymnosperms and ferns.

Ilia Leitch, an evolutionary biologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in England also says that flowering plants’ greater evolutionary range “means they can better fine-tune their physiology to the environment, and potentially live in more diverse habitats across different environmental conditions.” A relevant trait if we think about the global challenges of climate change.

It’s curious how our great achievements often come from the simplest ideas, but only by having as many ideas as possible can we dream of having one which makes a difference. Maybe we should learn with plants to downsize our memetic ambition to allow greater creative diversity in our cultural evolutionary landscape.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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