Freiburg biologists demonstrate that fossil conifer cones possess the oldest known plant structures which still exhibit movements
Fossil conifer cones can still move their individual seed scales after millions of years. This is the finding of a study conducted by the biologists Dr. Simon Poppinga and Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck from the Plant Biomechanics Group and Botanical Garden of the University of Freiburg.
The cones analyzed in the study therefore represent the oldest known plant structures that are still capable of movement and can also serve as a model for bioinspired technical applications with low maintenance requirements. The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
Cones from coniferous trees like pines open in response to dry conditions and close in response to wet conditions – a mechanism that enables them to release their seeds under favorable environmental conditions. In addition, the movement of the individual scales is passive, meaning that it does not require any metabolic energy.
These attributes have recently brought conifer cones to the attention of scientists, who aim to use them as biological models for the development of technical devices capable of autonomous movement. Poppinga and Speck have now discovered that the scales continue to function in this way for an extremely long time: Fossil cones from the Eemian interglacial period, about 126,000 to 113,000 years ago, as well as the middle Miocene, about 16.5 to 11.5 million years ago, still react to changes in moisture by moving their scales.
With the help of x-ray-computed tomography, the researchers demonstrated that the cones are preserved by coalification during the fossilization process and that the fossilized cones show only very few mineral inclusions. This ensures that the fine structures responsible for moisture-dependent movement remain intact.
The study was conducted within the scope of the European research network JONAS (Joint Research Network on Advanced Materials and Systems). Besides Poppinga and Speck, scientists from BASF SE and Heidelberg University Hospital also collaborated on the study.
S. Poppinga, N. Nestle, A. Šandor, B. Reible, T. Masselter, B. Bruchman, T. Speck (2016). Hygroscopic motions of fossil conifer cones. In: Scientific Reports 7:40302, DOI: 10.1038/srep40302
Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck
Plant Biomechanics Group / Botanical Garden
University of Freiburg
Phone: +49 (0)761/203-2875
Rudolf-Werner Dreier | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Programming cells with computer-like logic
27.07.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics
27.07.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.
Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine