It Came from Outer Space
Brown, Peter, Natural History
Strange things are happening here, on this old, familiar planet. The age of terrestrial exploration, sometimes thought to have burned itself out for lack of the fuel of new frontiers, is still raging for those willing to probe. And the more you probe, the less familiar, the more, well, extraterrestrial the Earth and its life-forms seem to be. The organisms and behavioral patterns we're covering in this issue are not what most people mean when they think of life on Earth.
Some of the creatures occur in plain sight, in fields and forests, not to mention on the windowsills of urban apartments. Others are so well hidden that the habitats themselves were unimaginable just a few decades ago, and the creatures still go unobserved. Consider the familiar scale insects, as inconspicuous as they are ubiquitous on plants. Once you begin to look closely, though, at the ways they transfer their genes, these creatures might as well have blown in from another solar system on stellar winds (see "The Sex Lives of Scales," by Benjamin B. Normark, page 38).
Here's another example. Ordinary weeds and grasses are proving to have elaborate systems for discrimination and action that go far beyond conventional "vegetable intelligence." The plants look around; they measure the length of the day; they check out the density of nearby plants and adjust their growth accordingly. In their intelligence report from the front, Marcelo J. Yanovsky and Jorge J. Casal describe their surprising findings about the molecular details of "How Plants 'See'" (page …
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Publication information: Article title: It Came from Outer Space. Contributors: Brown, Peter - Author. Magazine title: Natural History. Volume: 113. Issue: 7 Publication date: September 2004. Page number: 8. © American Museum of Natural History Dec 2008/Jan 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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