"Plants? Plants are boring!" you say.
Or not. Here are 10 amazing things about plants that will break your disbelieving little brain. You can't make this stuff up:
- Plants can swim! Some single-celled green algae (and other plants, like euglenids and dinoflagellates) have flagella they use to swim from place to place for their entire life, not just as gametes. How do they know where they want to go? Well...
- Plants can see! Yep, that's what I said. Some plants have an eye spot that can perceive light and tell the flagellum to whip them to a better location. So much for the Creationist's "half an eye is no use" hypothesis.
- Plants hunt! Many dinoflagellate species are photosynthetic, but most of those are actually mixotrophic--that is, they both make their own food, and eat prey. Noctiluca even eats fish eggs! And speaking of amazing dinoflagellates, these tiny plants are responsible for stunning bioluminescent tides.
- Plants are made of glass! Diatoms are tiny golden-brown algae that consist of about 98% silicon: almost pure glass. These plants have a bit of squishy genetic material sandwiched
Naked Man orchid
- Plants have alternating generations! Okay, this one is hard to conceptualize. Imagine that you are human, but when you have a child, it will be a cheetah. And your parents were
Flying Egret orchid
- Flowers and fruit invented beauty! Before flowers came along, plants reproduced many inefficient ways; sometimes with spores, like ferns and fungi do; or by broadcasting incredible volumes of pollen to the wind, like pine trees do. Either way, you're just kind of throwing a Hail Mary and hoping it hits something useful. Works, but it's pretty random; and you certainly don't need to advertise, explaining why mushrooms are so cryptic (and often toxic). Flowers and fruits figured out that if they looked
- Plants train humans! Thank Michael Pollan for this one. He wrote an entire (excellent) book about it.
- Some single-celled plants can work together to form larger creatures with specialized organs! Slime molds consist of perfectly functional single-celled protists that sometimes come together to get things done as a big, sticky puddle. For instance, and without any top-down management, some of these cells will choose to gang up to hunt (see #3), or to form fruiting bodies to produce spores.
- Some single-celled plants can work together to process information...without a brain! Remember I just mentioned that slime molds can organize without anyone telling them what to do? Well, they can also problem-solve without a brain.
- And last, but hardly least, Plants create chemical energy from sunlight, and build their bodies from air! If you didn't know this from almost your first memory, you would be
Flying Duck orchid