Stefano Mancuso’s TED lecture, shown below, opens with him pointing out what he considers to be the biggest error in the story of Noah’s ark – there were no plants.** I immediately thought: ’nor fungi’, then ’nor bacteria’ (which is a bit unfair as the writers of that day couldn’t see them). I then thought of viruses, but started getting side-tracked as to if there was a positive value in keeping viruses. (An idle mind, and all that…) Allegorical stories don’t necessarily have to be accurate, with their main point being the moral (or other) message they wish to convey, but it’s still a striking omission.

He tsk-tsks David Attenborough, too.

Some time ago Alison wrote wondering why students seemed to dislike studying plants, which attracted a few comments over at her blog. A general theme was that perhaps plants were perceived as uninteresting. This discussion was the reason I’ve picked this lecture for you this Friday.

Mancuso playfully hinges his talk on the word ‘intelligent’, but it is the collection of interesting things plants do will that will appeal to most people. (I personally wish he’d spent more time doing that, actually.***)

He also introduces Charles Darwin’s book The Power of Movement in Plants. (Be honest: did you know he’d written that?) The quote he picks from this is intriguing.

Check his presentation out for yourself, there are some pretty lively plants in there.

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If you can’t get enough of Venus fly traps, there is David Attenborough’s popular (close to 1 million views) presentation of it, complete with annoying advertisement at the start. Also worth checking out is a BBC documentary on the challenges of filming plants for this series, including on scene that took, literally, years to make.


* I write ‘intelligent’ somewhat tongue-in-cheek, of course.

** I’m not a historian, but it occurs to me that perhaps people of the time the bible stories were written didn’t consider plants to be living, or at least living in the same was as animals were considered to be?

*** I personally think there are other examples that show the liveliness of plants that might have been added. Some parts of plant defence systems and details of their day-night cycles come to mind.

Other articles on Code for life:

Aww, crap. (Pitcher plants feature in this.)

Thoughts towards a human brain neural connection map

Science in the House? (Folate supplementation)

Finding platypus venom

Preserving endangered species – of gut microbes

Find transcription factor motifs in genomes better: add histone acetylation data