Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Build Me Up Buttercup

Despite the stereotypical view of the Japanese being short – they are actually the same average height as the French (wee-wee, monsieur)—Japan is home to a flower with the world’s longest genome.

I know – it sounds impressive. I thought it was something dirty, too. But then I realized I had no idea what the heck it meant. So I looked it up. Just for us. Now we can all seem a little bit smarter than the rest of the non-Wonderful Rife readers. They’re all idiots.

The Japanese flower – the Paris Japonica is the beautiful flower up here on the left. In an article released in September or October of 2010, the canopy flower, also known as the Kinugasaso, is a species of the genus Paris in the family Melanthiaceae – and has a genome with about 150 billion base pairs – that’s about 50 times larger than humans and gaijin (foreigners in Japan).

Because all organisms have cells – we share a common denominator with plants. Each cell has a nucleus, and each nucleus contains DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid)Humans are supposed to have 46 chromosomes in our cells... the DNA in our cells would stretch out to 2 metres.

But the Paris Japoinica has 150 billion base pairs of DNA per cell, and is the largest genome of any plant... and if you were to stretch the DNA from a single cell, it would be over 100 meters long – which would be taller than Big Ben, the famed British tower in London, England.

This doesn’t mean that the flower is more complex than us... well, it does, but in a somewhat dangerous way that I’ll save for a few paragraphs.

The genomes contained within the plant – well, most of the DNA is actually called non-coding DNA. It means that the DNA in the plant is not used to create skin, hair, eyes or brain or even leaves and flowers. It’s multiples of repeated DNA sequences.

It’s not more intelligent or more complex than a human being. It just has extra DNA that isn’t really related to the overall structure of the plant. So what does the extra long genome mean?

Here’s the kicker: When it comes to cell division, because of the amount of DNA that needs to be copied, it takes a heck of a lot of time relative to a human being or other organisms on this plant. This plant is not an annual. It is unable to grow its cells fast enough to produce a plant, a flower and a seed in one year, and for that reason, it is known as a perennial.

What it does mean is that it takes a lot longer to replicate. It’s a scientific fact that organisms with long genomes like the Paris Japonica, well, they are predisposed to have a greater risk of extinction.

It also means that people are going to need to look after these plants to ensure they have enough time to replicate, because they are not a quick-to-adapt species.

Here’s some info about the plant. It will flower in July – sometimes every year. The white flower (see photo) sits above a base of eight leaves and thrives best in a cool, humid or shady place. Hmmm... stupid science... cool or humid? Which one? I guess the sub-alpine area of Japan is best for it.

And because I feel the need to blind you all with science, when the Paris Japonica flower became the genome leader, it did so by besting the marbled lungfish, which only had 130 billion base pairs.

As mentioned, the Paris Japonica is the plant with the largest genome size... but since it’s crowning achievement as having the largest genome, a few other organisms have been found to have larger ones – like the current record holder, Polychaos dubium, a freshwater ambeoid (real close to an amoeba) which has 670 billion base pairs of DNA.

Somewhere glad I can achieve orgasm faster than these organisms can replicate,
Andrew Joseph
Today’s title is by The Foundations: It’s a cute song, and I’m sure you all know it: GENOME.
PS: Why this title and not the Thomas Dolby song: She Blinded Me With Science - well... Build Me Up Buttercup and Foundation all mean (in my mind) building blocks of life - DNA. I'm saving Thomas Dolby for later.

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