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Either tomato plants have a brain or nature is designed

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File:Grape tomatoes - various colors upon ripening.jpg
"Someone has been doing our thinking for us."/Davidals

From Eurekalert (August 16, 2011), we learn: “Nature reaches for the high hanging fruit”:

In the first study of its kind, researchers have used tools of paleontology to gain new insights into the diversity of natural plant chemicals. They have shown that during the evolution of these compounds nature doesn’t settle for the ‘low-hanging fruit’ but favours rarer, harder to synthesise forms, giving pointers that will help in the search for potent new drugs.

Rather far-sighted on nature’s part, wouldn’t you say?

Pepper, tomato, and potato plants ( Solonanceae) synthesize unique terpenes to ward off pathogens. (Terpenes are also used in pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.)

“The big question is how plants have evolved to make these chemicals,” said Dr ÓMáille. Acting on the assumption that the plants evolved in such a way as to produce the simplest terpenes most easily, the researcher report that

“We discovered a perplexing disparity between the predicted and natural abundance of terpenes. The common terpenes we see in nature are predicted to be quite rare, based on the chemistry. On the other hand, the terpene forms predicted to dominate are scarcely seen in nature.” said Dr Ómáille.

“Nature in fact reaches for the higher-hanging fruit, skewing chemical reactions to favour rarer chemicals. This suggests an adaptive significance to the distribution of chemicals produced by plants.”

It suggests something else as well: Design is the only reasonable explanation for the advance planning these plants illustrate. And because the researchers can’t talk about it, they have to personify nature.

5 Replies to “Either tomato plants have a brain or nature is designed

  1. 1
    Heinrich says:

    Where’s the advanced planning? From my reading of the article (I haven’t read the paper), they’re saying that there’s a selective advantage to the rarer chemicals. In other words, they didn’t evolve by drift through the space of particular chemicals. This simply suggest that there is a selective advantage of particular molecules (e.g. because of their effects on pathogens).

  2. 2
    faded_Glory says:

    Furthermore, it suggests that the designer is extraordinarily fond of beetles in tomato sauce.

    fG

  3. 3
    snelldl says:

    Terpenes are what make the bluish haze in forested mountains, e.g. the Smokies.

    FG: have you had an Italian dinner with the designer?

  4. 4
    DrREC says:

    So:

    A) Tomatoes ‘thought’ one day they would develop complex terpenes.

    B) A designer added complex terpene pathways to partially and differentially combat insect pests (also designed).

    C) Simple terpene pathways evolved complexity and diversity. (Gene duplication and divergence of the enzymes acting on them create new chemical products. Some new products show anti-fungal or insecticidal properties, conferring a reproductive advantage on those plants. Repeat).

    So I don’t see why it is either A or B. It seems C is a valid alternative.

  5. 5
    africangenesis says:

    It would be a surprise in nature if something expensive to produce didn’t have adaptive advantage, otherwise it would be a wasted expense, and a disadvantage. The common terpenes, like the rarer kind that resulted in “beneficial” drugs, are prone to be toxic, that is why the ones that the plants found to be useful are rare and refined to the point of limited toxicity to the plant while still providing their function. Thanx designer, just what we needed, could you have at least labeled the toxic parts for us?

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