The Scientist Whose Yoghurt Pots Have Achieved an Evolutionary Breakthrough
Byline: Sally Williams
AN EXPERIMENT conducted at no cost with yoghurt pots and schoolchildren has been named among the "most important recent science to be published" worldwide.
Dr John Warren said he noticed, while on a beach for his 15-year-old daughter's birthday party at Ynyslas, near Borth, that exposed coastal flowers had long stalks that could easily be damaged by the wind, while their related Alpine species tended to flower in cushions on the ground.
His research into the differences has been called a "plant life evolutionary breakthrough" after he discovered that the waviness of the coastal stalks is a factor in attracting pollinating insects.
With the help of his children's friends and two sixth-formers, Dr Warren, of Aberystwyth University's Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences, conducted research on a shoestring by growing and comparing plants with stalks of various lengths, in his backyard in yoghurt pots.
He concluded there must be an element of genetic control over the stalk lengths for evolution to operate.
His paper, Do Flowers Wave to Attract Pollinators? recently appeared in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology and has attracted worldwide acclaim from the Smithsonian Magazine to local papers as far afield as St Helena, South Atlantic.
The Faculty of 1000 Biology, an online service that evaluates scientific papers across the globe, said Dr Warren's discovery was among the "most important recent science to be published".
A spokeswoman for Faculty 1000 said: "The image of beckoning flowers alone should make one want to read this paper."
Dr Warren said: "The kids were playing at my 15-year-old daughter Eleanor's party a few summers ago and I was by the car watching tall flowers blowing in the shingle. …