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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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An Original Green Thumb
19 May 1997 (All day)
Yesterday would have been the 94th birthday of Frits Went, a Dutch-born American botanist who discovered the role of the plant hormone auxin and paved the way for the development of weed killers, fertilizers, and genetically engineered crops.
While studying oat seedlings, Went found that auxin produced at the tip was distributed preferentially down the dark side of the shoot, which explained why seedlings grow faster on that side and bend toward the light. In 1927, his theory of phototropism was not well accepted, but eventually it shaped the new field of agricultural chemistry.
Went also developed the first phytotron--a greenhouse that mimics natural climatic conditions--which was built in 1949 at the California Institute of Technology. And on a trip to Brazil in the late 1960s, Went discovered that Amazon forest soil was riddled with a network of fungi, which he proposed digest the tree litter and pass nutrients to intertwined tree roots. That theory was used to bolster the growing movement to save the rain forest from clear-cutting.
[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed., Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research Inc., ITP, 1995).]