Trees are “aware” of their size and adapt by thickening their trunk

To understand how plant stems develop and respond to growing weight by thickening and becoming trunks until the plant itself becomes a tree, a team of researchers has produced a new study to understand more about the so-called “vertical proprioception” theory. It is a mechanism that balances the radial growth of the stem first and the stem with the weight gain of the plant.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki, the University of Cambridge and the Finnish Institute of Natural Resources have analyzed the downy birch (Betula pubescens). The researchers confirm that this tree can regulate the radial growth of the stem in relation to the weight that increases with the growth of the plant and this strength itself changes depending on the length of the stem.

In a way, the researchers’ idea is that plants somehow perceive their weight and size by thickening the stem, as Juan Alonso-Serra of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences of the University of the Finnish capital suggests.n To confirm this, the researchers analyzed the elimäki trees. It is a birch tree with genetic mutations that grows vertically for three months and then collapses following the bending of the stem. The researchers have shown that, unlike normal trees, the elimäki trees are less stable mechanically because they cannot correctly relate their width to their growing weight and this is due to the genetic mutation.


See also:

https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)31611-2

Device invented that makes jellyfish move faster

A prosthesis to make jellyfish swim faster: that’s the idea that came from a group of engineers at Caltech and Stanford University. The researchers have made a small prosthesis that allows the jellyfish themselves to be more efficient in swimming and all this without creating any kind of stress to the animals, according to the scientists themselves.

This 2 cm large prosthesis makes use of small electrical impulses to regulate the pulsating movement that these animals naturally perform to push themselves forward. They swing their tentacles and this gives them the push to move forward or even to jump on prey. With this microelectronic controller, the animals are able to pulsate three times faster than normal and this causes an acceleration of movement and allows them a speed of motion of approximately 4-6 cm/s.

They also consume half the energy they would consume if they went at this speed without the controller. As mentioned above, the animals do not suffer any side effects, which has been carefully evaluated by the researchers themselves over many hours of observation. They couldn’t assess their pain because they don’t have a brain or receptors but they paid attention to a phenomenon that happens in the jellyfish body when they are stressed: they secrete mucus and this was not observed by researchers.

However, such an effort is not an end in itself or in any case only aimed at making some jellyfish more efficient in its movement: these animals, in fact, could be exploited to explore and perform ocean surveys.

“If we can find a way to direct these jellyfish and also equip them with sensors to track things like ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen levels and so on, we could create a truly global ocean network in which each of the robot jellyfish costs a few dollars and feeds on energy from prey already present in the ocean,” reports John Dabiri of Caltech, one of the authors of the study published in Science Advances.


See also:

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/5/eaaz3194

Smoking in pregnancy related to increased risk of fractures in children during the first year

A new study shows once again how much smoking during pregnancy can be discouraged in relation to various diseases that smoking itself can cause in the unborn child. This time the study, published in BMJ, shows that smoking during pregnancy may be linked to an increased risk of fracture of the baby during its first year of life.

The observational study, carried out by Swedish researchers, does not show that there are lasting effects on the risk of fractures after childhood and until early adulthood: this suggests that mothers smoking during pregnancy causes a short-term influence on the bone health of their children, which is no less serious.

As researchers point out, the number of studies that correlate the mother’s smoking during pregnancy and the risk of fractures in children at different stages of their lives is quite low and this research fills this gap a bit. The researchers analyzed data from 1.6 million people born between 1983 and 2000 in Sweden to women who smoked or did not smoke at the beginning of their pregnancy.

The subjects were followed up to an average age of 21 years (up to a maximum age of 32 years). By also benchmarking between siblings, the researchers found that smoking on the mother’s side could be associated with a higher fracture rate in children during the first year of age.

The data generally suggested that the risk of fractures after childhood and up to early adulthood began to be attributed to family factors rather than maternal exposure to smoking in utero. The link, however, stressing that this is an observational study that cannot establish a direct cause, therefore seems to exist only for the first year of the child’s life.


See also:

https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.l7057