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Natural selection does it again

Too bad that Nobel Prizes are only awarded to people — natural selection deserves dozens of them.

Scientists decode how plants avoid sunburn
Source: Arizona State University

Too much sun – for plants as well as people – can be harmful to long-term health. But to avoid the botanical equivalent of “lobster tans,” plants have developed an intricate internal defense mechanism called photoprotection, which acts like sunscreen to ward off the sun’s harmful rays.

“We knew that biomolecules called carotenoids participate in this process of photoprotection, but the question has been, ‘How does this work?’ ” says Iris Visoly-Fisher, a postdoctoral research associate in the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

Carotenoids act as “wires” to carry away the extra sunlight energy in the form of unwanted electrons, somehow wicking away the extra electrons across long distances from locations that could damage plant tissues and photosynthesis.

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One Response to Natural selection does it again

  1. I read this article when it was first published and thought, “Of course! Plants are in the sun all day long, but unless they dry out, they do not turn brown from being burned.” I noticed the “Plants have developed….” language that flags pervasive Darwinian bias, but I dismissed it; “How clever, what a great design!” The sunscreen mechanism is another example of irreducible complexity: Without sunscreen protection, the first plants couldn’t have survived long enough to “develop” it.

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