C4 Photosynthesis

Supercharged plants
32-25 million years ago

Plants have been busily harnessing sunlight to make sugar for hundreds of millions of years – a process called photosynthesis. But fairly recently, some plants have found a better way to do it. C4 photosynthesis is far more efficient than normal photosynthesis, allowing C4 plants to cope with harsh conditions. Today scientists are trying to engineer rice to use C4 photosynthesis, to help feed the growing population.

See other: History of Life

Flowers Flower

Plant revolution
130 million years ago

This may sound strange, but flowers are a quite recent invention. There have been land plants for 465 million years, yet there were no flowers for over two-thirds of that time. Flowering plants only appeared in the middle of the dinosaur era. The equally-familiar grasses appeared even more recently. The oldest fossil grasses are just 70 million years old, although grass may have evolved a bit earlier than that.

See other: History of Life

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Samurai held viewing parties to watch cherry blossom fall.

According to CNN, in 2007, around the globe, at any moment there were 28,258 Internet users who were viewing pornography.

Koalas almost never need to drink water, getting sufficient water from the leaves they eat.

Abraham Lincoln was arrested for defecating in public at the age of 17. The charge was later dismissed and his record sealed.

Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, named many of the characters after his own family such as: Homer (his dad), Margaret (his mom), Maggie and Lisa (his sisters), and Abe (his grandfather). His brother Mark was the inspiration for Bart.  He chose to name the character “Bart”, though, because it was an anagram for “Brat”.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

First Half of the Paleozoic Era

In the history of the Earth, the Phanerozoic eon is the current geologic eon; it is the successor to the Proterozoic, Archean and Hadean eons and accounts for 12% of the Earth’s existence, covering a space of time from 541 million years ago until today.

The Phanerozoic eon is divided up into three eras: the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and the Cenozoic. The Paleozoic era, which spans 541 to 252.17 million years ago, contains the following periods: Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. Let’s consider the first three divisions of the Paleozoic era:

Cambrian period (541–485.4 million years ago)

The Cambrian period is marked by the appearance of mineralised organisms and the most rapid increase of the number of phyla on Earth: between 580 and 530 million years ago, Life seems to have experienced an acceleration – this evolutionary development is known as the Cambrian explosion. The Chordata, the phylum of vertebrates that at present includes mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds, originated during this period.

“The earth has music for those who listen.” – George Santayana

Ordovician period (485.4–443.4 million years ago)

The Ordovician period was characterised by high global sea levels.The wide shallow continental seas were becoming evermore diversified with molluscs, arthropods and fish; the genera of marine fauna increased fourfold. Although the first vertebrates – fish – appeared in the Cambrian, jawed fish evolved in the late Ordovician. Also, photosynthesis-based life made its first tentative steps out of the sea.

“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

Silurian period (443.4–419.2 million years ago)

The most significant event of the Silurian period was the emergence of terrestrial arthropods; these tiny ancestors of centipedes and arachnids pioneered the Earth’s surface. Another impressive new sight was the evolution of bony fish and the development of mosses and vascular plants – the phylum of the flowering plants, ferns, et cetera.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” – John Muir

See other: History of the Earth

Taxonomic Hierarchy

In biology, every organism has several taxonomic classifications; these classifications are taken from the taxonomic hierarchy. This hierarchical tree displays how all Earth organisms are related to each other.

Biological ClassificationTo illustrate this hierarchical tree, imagine a daffodil, ladybug, goldfish, human, cat, fox, jackal and dog.

Out of the three Domains that make up Life on Earth, the Eukarya is the most diverse domain. (The other two Domains are that of the Archaea, a group of single-celled organisms, and that of the Bacteria, very small organisms whose cells do not have a nucleus.)

This Eukarya Domain includes all organisms with complex cells, or a single cell with a complex structure; in these cells the genetic material is organized into chromosomes in the cell nucleus. Obviously, this includes the life forms listed above.

The Eukarya Domain is made up of Kingdoms; the Animal Kingdom being the most well known. This Kingdom includes all the animals listed above, from ladybug to dog, but excludes a plant like the daffodil.

The Animal Kingdom is made up of Phyla; the Phylum Chordata is one of the most interesting Phyla because it includes all vertebrates. That is to say, all mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds – to name a few – are part of this Phylum. Note that the ladybug is not part of this Phylum.

The Chordata Phylum is made up of Classes; the Mammal Class being the most dominant on Earth. Humans, cats, foxes, jackals, dogs and all other animals who suckle their young are part of this Class. This excludes the goldfish.

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
– Mark Twain

The Class of Mammals is made up of Orders; if we take the Order of Carnivora, the carnivores, we would exclude human beings (who are the story telling member of the Order Primates, in the Family of the Hominidae, of the Genus Homo). This leaves us with the cat, fox, jackal and dog.

The Order of Carnivora is made up of Families; the fox, jackal and dog are part of the Family Canidae. That is, all dog-like animals. This excludes the cat.

The Family Canidae is made up of Genera. (The term comes from the Latin genus meaning “descent, family, type, gender”; from the Ancient Greek: γένος, “race, stock, kin”.) In our example, the fox is part of a different Genus than the jackal and the dog.

The Genus Canis is made up of Species; the most widely accepted definition of a species is ‘the largest group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring’. That brings us to the difference between a jackal (canis aureus) and a dog (canis lupus), who are part of the same genus, but are different species.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
– Groucho Marx

Nyctinasty and Thigmonasty

Nyctinasty is a nastic movement (a non-directional responses to stimuli; for instance, temperature or humidity) that is associated with diurnal changes of temperature or light intensity.

Thigmonasty, also known as seismonasty, is a nastic movement in response to shock, especially the rapid folding of the leaflets of the sensitive plant due to changes in turgor pressure (cells distended beyond the natural state by some internal agent, especially fluid, or expansive force) caused by vibration.