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Flora & Fauna Roundup

August 31, 2012

A strange looking tropical plant is helping researchers understand the life-cycle of the cell.



Studying suicidal cells. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Programmed cell death, is the ability of cells to kill themselves when they’re no longer needed. Surprisingly, PCD helps keep us healthy: when cells lose this ability, birth defects, cancer and other problems can result. Researchers at Dalhousie University are learning more about PCD thanks to the Madagascar Lace Plant. Its leaves start out normal, but soon millions of cells commit suicide until each leaf is nothing but a lattice, possibly to let fast moving water flow through. By studying the plant, the scientists are learning details about PCD that could help them better understand a variety of processes and disorders.

In other news, Cornell scientists have discovered a beautiful new species of bird in the remote cloud forests of Peru. Named the Sira Barbet, the fruit eating bird has crimson, black, white and yellow plumage. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

The Sira Barbet, a newly discovered bird species from Peru. (Michael G. Harvey/Cornell University)

Madagascar lace plant (Sir William Jackson Hooker, 1856/Curtis's botanical magazine vol. 82)