- About Weevil
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- Eating Up Time: the Clock Carnivory Comes to Town
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- Don't Move a Muscle
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- The Future is Coming... on Stilts
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- Vertical Tourist Transporters... to Space?
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- Allergic to Life
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- US Military: Building Robots for a Scarier Tomorrow
- Very Alternative Fuels
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- The Greater Hamster of Alsace - A Tragedy in Several Acts
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|Vampire of the Issue|
|Written by Kim Evans, Illustrated by Julia Roberts|
|Monday, 07 March 2011 22:33|
The redwood species Sequoia sempervirens is native to California, and is well-known for both its impressive height (the tallest is 115m) and its longevity, living for between 1,200 and 1,800 years. The redwood is unusual in other ways too: it is one of the few coniferous trees to be hexaploid, i.e. to have six sets of chromosomes. This gives rise to a huge amount of genetic diversity, and some interesting mutations have formed as a result.
Albinism amongst animals is a well-known phenomenon, and, aside from issues with eyesight and sunburn, isn't usually too much of a problem. Albino plants, however, don't produce chlorophyll, which for a plant is a pretty big failure that usually results in death (also known as the ultimate failure of life). Not so for the albino redwood! The 50 or so of these trees survive by connecting their roots to the parent tree and parasitically leaching nutrients from them much like any teenager would. Their growth is stunted due to their stolen diet, so they only tend to reach 20m in height. These pale dwarfs also periodically die when the parent cuts the connection in hard times, for example during a drought, only to resurrect themselves when times improve. As the albino redwoods have no chlorophyll, their needles are pure white, often confusing and dazzling tourists who happen to stumble upon them when wandering through the forest.
The albino redwood fits the vampire myth pretty well, all things considered: it only survives by drinking the 'blood' of another, it's pale, it lives for a long time, it rarely sees sunlight (due to its stunted growth rather than photophobia, but it still counts); you could even say that it keeps a youthful appearance, as height is proportional to age for normal redwoods, and it can resurrect itself after death! Trees rarely take the star roles in big
Oh, and for those who were wondering: real vampires don't sparkle.
Kimberley Evans is entertained by the thought of Buffy staking one of these trees with its own branch.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 March 2011 21:47|