Square roots: Plants are good at math

26MSN News – To survive at night when there’s no sunlight, plants calculate their reserves of starch and consult their internal clocks, according to new research.
Plants do complex arithmetic calculations to make sure they have enough food to get them through the night, new research published in journal eLife shows.

Scientists at the John Innes Center in Norwich, England, said plants adjust their rate of starch consumption to prevent starvation during the night when they are unable to feed themselves with energy from the sun.

They can even compensate for an unexpected early night.

“This is the first concrete example in a fundamental biological process of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation,” mathematical modeler Martin Howard of John Innes Center said.

During the night, mechanisms inside the leaf measure the size of the starch store and estimate the length of time until dawn. Information about time comes from an internal clock, similar to the human body clock.

“The capacity to perform arithmetic calculation is vital for plant growth and productivity,” JIC metabolic biologist Alison Smith said.

“Understanding how plants continue to grow in the dark could help unlock new ways to boost crop yield.”

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5 responses to “Square roots: Plants are good at math

  1. June 24, 2013 — New research shows that to prevent starvation at night, plants perform accurate arithmetic division. The calculation allows them to use up their starch reserves at a constant rate so that they run out almost precisely at dawn.

  2. The plants do not do “complex arithmetic calculations”, they just do a simple division. The Research article will not be published until 25 June, 2013, but the title is: “Arabidopsis plants perform arithmetic division to prevent starvation at night” http://www.elifesciences.org/the-journal/in-press/ It was just someone exaggerating it to get a catchy story – and then all the other news sites copying it.

  3. Lincoln Hodges

    Researchers from the John Innes Centre have shown that plants are capable of doing basic division — a calculation that helps them consume their starch reserves at a steady pace during nighttime.

  4. NORWICH, England, June 24 (UPI) — To avoid starvation at night, plants do arithmetic — division to be exact — so their starch reserves last until dawn, British researchers say.

  5. MessageToEagle.com – Plants perform accurate arithmetic division in order to prevent starvation at night, a new study shows. The calculation allows them to use up their starch reserves at a constant rate so that they run out almost precisely at dawn.

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