Smart Seeds

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Smart seeds described in ScienceNOW 12 June 2009 and Science Roundup 2 July 2009. David Lentink, a zoologist at Wageningen University, the Netherlands and colleagues have studied the way maple seeds are able to ‘fly’ long distances away from their parent tree. Seeds need to be able to move away from the parent tree so they can grow in a new patch of earth. On a windy day a maple seed can fly up to one kilometre (five eighths of a mile).

They first created an artificial maple seed, ten times the size of a real seed, but with the same proportions and curves. They attached this to a robotic arm inside a container of oil and glass beads that enabled them to see the flow of fluid around it as it rotated like seeds do in the wind. They found the leading edge of the model seed formed vortices (tornado-like twisting movements) in the surrounding fluid as it moved. Such vortices help produce lift and have been found to be also produced by bats and insects wings as they fly.

The researchers then tested real seeds in a wind tunnel and found the same pattern of vortices, confirming their theory that seeds use vortex enhanced flight in the same way as bats and insects. The researchers wrote: “Leading edge vortices (LEVs) also explain the high lift generated by hovering insects, bats, and possibly birds, suggesting that the use of LEVs represents a convergent aerodynamic solution in the evolution of flight performance in both animals and plants.” Steven Vogel, a biomechanist of Duke University, North Carolina commented: “People don't give plants enough credit for 'smarts'”.

Editorial Comment: It is no smarter to give a maple tree credit for “smarts” because it has flying seeds than it is to give the model seed used in this study credit for smarts, instead of giving the credit to those who designed and built the model. If bio-mechanists and engineers can recognise “smarts” when they see them, they have no excuse for failing to giving credit to the Creator who was smart enough to design and build aerodynamic seeds before any smart human used their inbuilt creative intelligence to copy it. (Ref. Acer, forest, angiosperm)

Evidence News, 26 May 2010

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