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Plants do sums to get through the night

Interesting, makes me wonder just how they conclude just how much stored energy is used up at night, by just using mathematics.
yes, my first thought was if they could ever make a mistake... forgot to carry the one and now I am starving :P
I guess the anthropomorphism makes it easier for lay people to relate to science but equally I know many people will find themselves having to explain plants can't actually do mathematics.  This is exactly the sort of "fact" my grandparents love to spring on me.
I was reading this last night. Very interesting stuff.

Arabidopsis plants perform arithmetic division to prevent starvation at night
Antonio Scialdone (1), Sam T. Mugford (1), Doreen FeikeAlastair SkeffingtonPhilippa BorrillAlexander GrafAlison M. Smith,Martin Howard ((1) contributed equally)
(Submitted on 21 Jun 2013)
Photosynthetic starch reserves that accumulate in Arabidopsis leaves during the day decrease approximately linearly with time at night to support metabolism and growth. We find that the rate of decrease is adjusted to accommodate variation in the time of onset of darkness and starch content, such that reserves last almost precisely until dawn. Generation of these dynamics therefore requires an arithmetic division computation between the starch content and expected time to dawn. We introduce two novel chemical kinetic models capable of implementing analog arithmetic division. Predictions from the models are successfully tested in plants perturbed by a night-time light period or by mutations in starch degradation pathways. Our experiments indicate which components of the starch degradation apparatus may be important for appropriate arithmetic division. Our results are potentially relevant for any biological system dependent on a food reserve for survival over a predictable time period.


To be published in eLIFE


Quantitative Methods (q-bio.QM)



Cite as:

arXiv:1306.5148 [q-bio.QM]


(or arXiv:1306.5148v1 [q-bio.QM] for this version)