Exploring the wonders of Biology

Cactus Juice can help Humans!

This week in class we have learned about and discussed plant structure, growth, and development. For instance, “Plants have a hierarchical organization consisting of organs, tissues, and cells.” I decided to review some literature on cactuses. I decided to take a different direction of the research of the cactus. I will discuss how cactuses are good for human beings.

Did you know that there is such a thing called cactus juice? If I were reading this question I would have answered no. In my research I found out that there is such a thing, and it is for humans to drink! It is hypothesized that the cactus plants leaves, “ have a sticky liquid that is like asparagus, green beans, and green peppers.”  The cactus has three very important ingredients that humans need to consume and they are water, sugar, and minerals. So far the cactus has all the right things that we need.

Cactus juice is high in soluble fiber, which has been demonstrated to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease. In lab animals, cactus juice has been shown to increase immune function. You are still probably wondering how this is healthy for humans? Cactus juice can help people with “ arthritis, constipation, muscles, and it can strengthen the immune system.” Of course before you drink it make sure you blend the cactus up, and you can even add another liquid to give it some flavor.  You can find this juice for sale on the Internet or most health food stores.

In conclusion I learned that you could make juice out of a cactus. I also learned how healthy it is for you to drink. I was shocked and amazed when I read about this, and I hope you are as well.


Work Cited

Campbell Biology. Ninth Edition. Reece, Urry, Cain, Wasserman, Minorsky, Jackson. 2011.

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/the-nutrition-of-cactus-juice.html. 2000-2013 Internet Brands, Inc. FITDAY is a registered service mark of Internet Brands, Inc.

Do plants have ears?

Plants are a very important part of our life. Plants have their own systems for the regulation of their growth. There are many factors, both internal and external, that affect plant growth. Growth factors contribute their effect by either inhibiting or accelerating the plant growth. One of these factors is music. Music has been demonstrated to accelerate plant growth. Some study shows that a particular type of music at certain frequency can contribute to better growth in plant. To see how music can affect the plant growth, one researcher has carried out an experiment on tomato plants.

In the experiment, the researcher made two groups of 20 tomato plants in each group. He grew up these plants in tropical glass houses to drought conditions for two months. The test group was treated with some specific sound sequences for only few minutes on daily basis and the control group was not treated with music. The control group received required amount of water but test group received half of the required amount of water. He observed the phenotypic responses of the epigenetic (results from external influences) regulation. The research focused on the stimulation of proteins due to music influence. During the experiment, the researcher collected data on the increase in size and no. of internodes and leaves.

Results showed that the treated tomato plant grew as good as the controls with the half quantity of water. Also, treated plants were more tolerant to arid conditions. The treated plants showed much faster growth and significant increases in length compared to control group. But the no. of internodes and leaves were the same. This shows that they were in the same developing stage. The data suggests that the increase in length and resistance to dry condition was because of the stimulation of extensin and dehydrine respectively. The specific sound sequences in specific frequency can stimulate specific proteins.

This technique to propose music sequences in specific frequency to plants to inhibit or accelerate protein stimulation can be a helpful way for agriculture. This can help plants to fight against diseases, to grow in difficult environmental situation such as arid or cold conditions. This is also helpful to accelerate any particular properties such as increase no. of fruits.




Seed color predict plant quality for canola oil crops

The canola ( Brassica napus L.) seed, the source of our delicious canola oil, comes in a variety of colors.  The maximized production of canola seed’s germinating and seedling growth will thus maximize the oil production. This is why it is important to test the seeds and determine which seed will maximize these results.  At which stage of maturity, depending on the colors of black, dark brown and light brown, should harvesters pick the canola seeds? The Ministry of Agriculture carried out an experiment to test canola seeds on germination, oil, protein, sugars, and seedling growth of black, light brown, and dark brown colored seeds. This group hypothesized that seed color does play a role in germination, sugars, and seedling growth.

The Ministry of Agriculture gathered seeds and then sterilized, rinsed, and dried them. Germination testing was performed on three sheets of filter paper, dampened with distilled water, in polyethylene boxes.  The growth chamber temperature was set to twenty-five degrees Celsius.  Germination, when one to two radical (the embryonic root) appeared, was recorded daily for seven days, and then they harvested. They measured the seedlings for size.  Several methodologies were used to test the remaining characteristics. Phenol- sulphuric acid method was used to test for soluble sugars.  The percentage of oil content was determined using Soxhlet extraction.  The protein content was determined by using a Segmented Flow Analyzer.

The germination was increased in the black seed coat. The results declined in dark brown, and then declined even more in the light brown. The seed color also affected the seedling growth. There was greatly increased growth in the black seed. Like the germination test, the growth decreased with the lighter colors with dark brown being less than black, and light brown having the slowest growth. Oil content was shown to be increased in the dark colored seeds and then decreased with the lighter colors. On the other hand, the light brown seed color had the highest protein and sugar content.

Seed color does play a role in germination, seedling growth, and sugars as was suspected. The results of these tests seem to reflect on the maturity of the seed. The seeds acquire a darker coat with maturity.  The darker seed, with increased germination, seedling growth, and oil content, seems to be the mature seed.  The lighter seeds are explained to be immature seeds. Therefore, black coated canola seeds will give you the best, fastest harvest.


Jing Zhang, Ying Cui, Liyan Zhang, Yilin Wang, Jing Li, Guijun Yan,, et al. International Journal of Agriculture and Biology. 15.3 (June 30, 2013) Word Count: 3104. Reading Level (Lexile): 1550.Byline: Jing Zhang, Ying Cui, Liyan Zhang, Yilin Wang, Jing Li, Guijun Yan and Liyong Hu Abstract Canola (Brassica napus L.) seeds were sorted based on seed coat color into black (BL), dark brown (DBR) and light brown

Plant Defense Mechanisms Against Herbivores

I actually could not find a good experimental paper with a hypothesis or anything that would state why the experiment was made. But I did however, find something in the google scholar thing that had plenty of information about plant defenses against herbivores.  In my introduction, instead of stating a hypothesis or why an experiment would have been made, I am going to state a hypothesis that would be answered with the information. I am also going to say something about why experimenting with this would be useful.

Plant Defense Mechanisms Against Herbivores

            Plants have been around for millions of years. They have evolved from single cell organisms to what they are now, in spite of the fact that herbivores have been eating them since the very beginning of their evolutionary history. They have flourished and evolved to fight back against herbivores.  Plants release chemicals to try to keep predators away. An hypothesis that could arise from this situation would be, the more damage a predator does to the plant- the higher quantities of  harmful chemicals the plant releases to protect itself.

A way to test the hypothesis is to get a couple of plants that defend themselves from predators. One of them you would inflict damage slightly and test the atmosphere for the chemicals that would be harmful for insects or that would be chemically attractive to certain insects that would be hurtful for the predator. Then you would damage the other plant more to see if the chemical concentration would be greater. Depending on the species of the plant varies with the chemical release. According to Paul W. Pare and James H. Tumlinson, the more damage the plant receives the more higher quantities of defense chemicals is release to defend itself from herbivores.

Studying how plants defend themselves can help us see characteristics that help us better understand how nature works and how natural selection works its magic in the evolution of variety of chemical defenses/. Chemicals from those plants could be harmful to certain parasites, but harmless and maybe beneficial to humans. Maybe certain species of plants could have the cure for certain human disease. There many things yet for us to discover. It is only a matter of when.










Works Cited

1. Pare, Paul W., and James H. Tumlinson. “Plant Volatiles as a Defense against Insect      Herbivores.” Plant Volatiles as a Defense against Insect Herbivores. American Society             of Plant Physiologists, 1999. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.


Effects of insecticides on goldren rods

Anna Young


Herbivores are animals that feed exclusively on plants and herbivore damage represents significant annual losses to agricultural production. To combat crop losses due to herbivory, many farmers annually apply insecticides, which can have negative impacts on human and ecosystem health. Many techniques are being tested to reduce the rate of insecticide application while still attaining high yields from crops. his study was done to estimate the impact herbivores had on flowering plants and determine how effective annual insecticide application was on reducing herbivory compared to no application or intermediate application rates. This experiment used goldenrod, Solidago altissima and Phytophagous insects. It was performed in Ithaca, New York. It was planned out to see if the degree to which the herbivore damage done in one year can influence plant performance in succeeding years.


To test this, the experiment had phytophagous insects let loose onto a meadow of goldenrod Solidago altissima.  The experiment started with 6 fields dominated by the goldenrods in Ithaca, New York, USA. The control experiment was to let the herbivore insects dominate the goldenrod field. No insecticides were applied. This was done over a year’s time. Field 2 was measured out and this time insecticides were applied every year for 5 years. The last 3 fields had insecticides applied every 3rd year.


Field one had a heavy herbivore load. There was a large plant damage load. Field two with the insecticides sprayed every year had a different outcome. The insecticides suppressed the herbivores, but not all of them, nothing to cause major damage. Fields 3-6 did not have much of a difference from field two. It suppressed most of the herbivores, as well.


I think the results were interesting. You would think in fields 3-6 that herbivores would dominate the goldenrod fields again and cause plant damage, but that was not true. This disproves the hypothesis proposed in the introduction that herbivore damage done in one year can influence plant performance in succeeding years. I think the insecticides did help the plant growth and it controlled the growth in the following years after applied.


Root, Richard B. Hebivore pressure on goldenrods (Solidago Altissima) its variation and   cumulative effects. Ecological Society of America, 1996. Web. 13 Sept 2013                             <go.galegroup.com>

Root, Richard B. Hebivore pressure on goldenrods (Solidago Altissima) its variation and   cumulative effects. Volume 77 Page 1074-1087. Frontiers Editorial. Web. 13 Sept                                  2013<Esajournals.org>


Snap Close: Venus Fly Trap

As the of study evolution for plants and animals continues to expand, researchers are able to better analyze how distinct characteristics of both groups can be better understood. For the Venus’s flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, researchers have been able to understand not only why it opens its jaw like mouth, but also how internally it can consume ATP to fuel the closure movement. When an insect becomes allured to the Venus’s mouth, the insect touches one of the plant’s hairs which are sensory structures. As the plant senses the touch of the insect, its receptor potentials from the sensitive hairs produce movement and the mouth, starting at the midrib, closes rapidly. Today, through the research of M.J. Jalle, we will analyze the hypothesis that ATP plays a role in mechanically stimulated rapid closure of the Venus’s-Flytrap.

To test the given hypothesis, Jalle first began research into other plants. After full review of the Venus’s flytrap, researchers were still unable to find the direct source of how it closes, but through the study other plants; researchers were able to find parallel answers. For example, pea tendrils and Mimosa plants both produce similar biochemical rapid movement which both use a contractile ATPase that consumes ATP for movement. Due to the similarity of the movements, these plants were used as a foundation for the study of the Venus’s flytrap movement.

Using that foundation, the following experiment was conducted and produced the given results. When the midribs of untreated traps of Dionaea muscipula are frozen in liquid nitrogen after rapid closure, they contained significantly less ATP than those frozen before closure. Exogenous ATP caused a significant increase in the rate of mechanically stimulated trap closure. Illuminated traps closed faster than those kept in the dark. The traps of plants placed in 100% 02 close much faster than do air controls, while 100% C02 inhibits closure. It is concluded that ATP is probably the native source of potential energy for contraction of the trap’s midrib, and that if the endogenous ATP titer is increased by oxidative phosphorylation or an exogenous source, the trap will close faster.

Through the research produced by Jalle, we are able to view the direct connection between plants that produce movement and how exactly ATP is used by these plants for energy. As the ATP increases, so does the speed of how fast the Venus’s flytrap midrib closes. So with an increase in an energy source, the movement and speed of the plants will increase. According to Thomas Sumner, Venus flytraps are continuously studied to view exactly not only the biological processes behind the closure of the midribs but also the physical one. With the research produced by Jalle, scientists are able to view the reasoning behind both processes.



Jalle, M.J. The Role of ATP in Mechanically Stimulated Rapid Closure of the Venuss-Flytrap. Diss. Department of Botany, Ohio University, 1972. Web. <http://www.plantphysiol.org/content/51/1/17.full.pdf html>.

Sumner, Thomas. “Inside Science.” Investigating the Venus Flytrap’s Speedy Snap. N.p., 20 Nov 2012. Web. 13 Sep 2013. <http://www.insidescience.org/content/investigating-venus-flytraps-speedy-snap/847>.

The symbiotic relationship of Land Plants and Fungi

The study of the establishment of land plants has been an ongoing research topic for years. The latest accepted study suggests a symbiotic relationship of soil fungi assisting the earliest plants establish themselves on land. The research effort of this study is based only on evolutionary history and fossil record collected throughout time. Humphreys, a writer in Nature Communications, exhibited similar symbolic traits of carbon uptake, growth, and asexual reproduction between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and historical land plants. If an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and an ancient land plant are generated in a lab and grown together to observe a symbiotic relationship, then this relationship can be supported based on the data collected from the experiment.

In this testing procedure, Glomeromycota, a historical fungi, and Marchantia paleacea, an ancient liverwort will be observed for a symbiotic relationship. Non-mycorrhizal plants were grown in AMF-free soil on top of or around AMF-colonized plants. Then, observe the symbiotic relationship conceived. Plants were grown in an ambient CO2 environment, consistent with the early Paleozoic period in which these plants first formed a relationship.

At ambient CO2 conditions, the AMF plants displayed photosynthetic gain. The AMF plants also consumed an increased amount of nitrogen and phosphorus. Increased growth and biomass in the AMF plants revealed the success of the relationship. The AMF plants promoted more asexual reproduction.  Lastly, fungal mycelium grew from the mutualistic relationship of the ancient land plant, Marchantia paleacea.

 The data collected by this experiment provides evidential support of the symbiotic relationship of fungi assisting historical plants move to land. The high CO2 atmosphere played a major role in the mycorrhiza relationships with the early plants. Land plants evolving to life on land, with the help of mycorrhiza fungi, was an important turning point towards the present day world. Photosynthesis of land plants removed CO2 from our atmosphere, contributing towards global cooling, rather than global warming. This made the land possible for animals to become terrestrial and branch into the many evolving species living today.  The collection of this data will help in future research of land plants. It gave a deeper understanding of the evolution of early plants and their move to land.



Nature Reviews Microbiology; Jan2011, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p6-6, 1p

Humphreys , C.P. “Mutualistic mycorrhiza like symbosis in the most ancient group of land plants..” 103. (2010): n. page. Web. 24 Sep. 2013.

How did plants come about?

Allison Bankston

Blog #1


In our first couple weeks of classes we have been talking about land plants. Land plants include bryophytes such as mosses, lycophytes, pterophytes (ferns), gymnosperms (i.e. conifers), and angiosperms (flowering plants).  I decided to do some research on land plants, and were they have first appeared. Today land plants have diversified into numerous forms but their evolution and role in the formation of early ecosystems remains unclear.

It is hypothesized that large-scale removal of CO2 – a greenhouse gas – by early plants may have contributed to the initial cooling of the planet and climate changes such as the ice ages. Scientists did experiments to see how these plants were causing Ice Ages and other climate changes. The scientists did an experiment with rocks and moss, and incubated it for three months. This is how they determined what the plants were doing. If it weren’t for this experiment they would not have a clue to what was causing all these climate changes.

Some scientists suspected the “first plants to take root on dry land cooled the Earth and brought Ice Ages.” The scientist figured out that the plants “drew down atmospheric carbon, by clinging to rocks and dragging the rocks down.”  What they mean by this is that plants are extracting inorganic nutrients from the rocks, taking the minerals out of the abiotic environment and enabling them to be used by other organisms.

In conclusion, I learned that plants could cause climate changes. Who knew something so small can cause something so large to happen, for instance an ice age. I think scientist need to continue to do more research on land plants to see what else they can cause.

Work Cited

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/feb/01/first-land-plants-ice-ages. By Ian Sample. 1 February, 2012. “First Land Plants.

Campbell Biology. Ninth Edition. Reece, Urry, Cain, Wasserman, Minorsky, Jackson. 2011.

Transgenic fungus can fight Malaria

Malaria is a blood disease caused by parasites in the genus Plasmodium. A female infected Anopheles mosquito bites the person and transmits this disease by inserting the malarial parasite into human blood circulation from its saliva. Around 240 million cases of malaria occurred every year worldwide which results in approximately 850,000 annual deaths according to WHO. Treatment used to control malaria can decrease the prevalence of this disease to a great extend, but mosquitoes are obtaining resistance to all pesticides, so a modern and permanent solution is needed. To find out a new solution, researchers tested whether a genetically modified fungus could be an efficient and eco-friendly means to fight malaria.

Researchers have created transgenic anti-malarial fungus, starting with Metarhizium anisopliae, a fungus which attacks mosquitoes naturally. They modified this fungus to carry genes for either an anti-malarial scorpion toxin or a human anti-malarial antibody. Both the scorpion toxin and the antibody attack the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria species. After that, scientists compared three different groups of mosquitoes infected by parasite P. facliparum. In first group, they sprayed mosquitoes with the genetically altered fungus. In second group, mosquitoes were sprayed with natural fungi. In last group, they sprayed mosquitoes without any fungus.

Researchers have found that transgenic fungus decreases the parasite growth. Mosquitoes sprayed with transgenic fungus shows a huge reduction in P. falciparum parasite loads. P.falciparum was present in only 25 percent of mosquitoes sprayed with transgenic fungus. While in second group, parasite was present in 87 percent of mosquitoes sprayed with natural fungus. In third group, parasite was present in 94 percent of mosquitoes sprayed alone. In 25 percent of mosquitoes of group one which still had parasites in them, parasites numbers were reduced by 95 percent compared to the mosquitoes sprayed with natural fungus.

This finding is an answer to problem such as resistance to pesticides. Genetic engineering can alter the genetic sequence to convert a harmful organism into useful organism. Genetic modification can be used in the future to combat other diseases, for example Lyme disease and dengue fever.



1. http://newsdesk.umd.edu/uniini/release.cfm?ArticleID=2351

2. Development of Transgenic Fungi That Kill Human Malaria Parasites in Mosquitoes Science    25-Feb-2011.

Welcome to our BIOL 1120 Blog

Hi all, I would like to personally welcome you to our class blog. Here, we will get the opportunity to share with the public some of the amazing biological research that is of interest to you. Biology is a huge field, and our BIOL 1120 class will be covering general diversity, basics on structure and function of plant and animal systems, and basic ecological interactions, so anything from mind-controlling parasites to amazing adaptations is fair game. Have fun with this and show the world how truly awesome the realm of biology is.

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