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Bio 103, Lab 2: Darwin's Voyage Revisited Extended

Paul Grobstein's picture
The funding agencies were impressed by the results of the initial surveys of plant life on Nearer and Farther. The findings clearly indicate that there is a diversity of plant life on both planets, while highlighting difficulties in categorizing such life (problems that are familiar from previous experience on Earth). In general, more effective categorizing schemes seem to involve
  • acknowledgement of the possibility that the appearance of individual organisms may change over time
  • descriptions in terms that can be conveyed as unequivocably as possible to other observers, including quantification where possible
  • the use, where possible, of qualitative (logically exclusive) instead of quantitative characteristics
  • the observations of "natural clusters" in which
    • there is an absence of intermediate forms
    • several different characteristics correlate with one another
The funding agencies also suspect that additional observations at other than normal human scales (see class discussion) might help to further characterize the diversity of plant life on Nearer and Farther .

With the objective of getting less wrong about characterizing plant life on Nearer and Farther, each of the original expeditionary groups is encouraged to make a second expedition to the planet they did not visit on their first expedition. Each group should prepare for that expedition by reading a prior report on that planet. In addition to new observations aimed at assessing the classification proposals of that group, each expeditionary group should in addition make new observations at the scale of centimeters and millimeters. Additional equipment will be provided to facilitate this shift of scale.

The report of each group should include a summary of new smaller scale observations of patterns of similarities and differences among plants relevant to the categorization problem, a critical evaluation of the prior work on that planet, and a discussion of whether plant life appears more or less diverse when viewed at smaller spatial scales.

Relevant information about plant life on earth:

ekoike's picture

Planet Farther

Eri Koike

Luisana Taveras

Caitlin McGowan

Crystal Reed

After exploring the Planet Farther, we found three main categories, which we labeled Category 1 (Ground level- 2 feet); Category 2 (2 feet- 6 feet); Category 3 (Over 5 feet).

In Category 1 with a total of 16 species, which was from the ground level to two feet, we found four species of grass or bladed plants (regular grass (approx. 3-6 cm), crab grass (15-22 cm), round silky grass (28 cm) and long flat grass (34 cm)), three species of leafy small plants (rounded heart shaped leaf (which varied in color, age and size (1-1.5cm), rounded scalloped edge leaf (which varied in size from 2cm-3cm) and clover-shaped leaf (.5-1cm)) The rest were categorized by leaf shape, leaf arrangement, cluster formation.

In Category 2, which was species from two feet to six feet, we found two species of bushes, which varied in color (deepness of green), appearance of berries and the difference in shape and branch uniformity.

In Category 3, which was species over five feet, we found three species of trees, which we labeled Tree One, Tree Two and Tree Three. Tree One, which was 25 feet, had a single trunk with the average leaf size of 10 cm and the way in which the tree branches out was in a uniform direction. Tree One, unlike Tree Two, had a high volume of leaves per branch. Tree Two, which we speculated might be of the same family, but the noticeable difference between the two trees were how they differed in trunk formation. Tree Two's trunk, unlike Tree One, was multi-trunked.

Conclusion: We found that through further study of the specific organisms, with a more specific scale the more diversity that can be found.

eharnett's picture

PlAnTz 2 ReDuX

Members: Dr. Kaitlin Cough, Dr. Rachel Tashjian, Dr. Elizabeth Harnett

Once upon a time, on a Planet named Farther, three doctors explored new territory...

We tried to classify the plants into groups as little as possible and rather tried to figure out what made each plant different from the next. We decided to do this in reaction to esteemed scholar Will Franklin’s plant guide. While we were able to distinguish plants from other forms because of his green/chlorophyll relationship, we lacked the tools to determine some of the characteristics laid out.

We discovered 14 different types of plant and, rather then categorizing them based on physical attributes, we called them Plant A, Plant B, etc. There were similar characteristics that we used to observe the plant, including overall plant proportions and stem and leaf design (and, as stated, the presence of chlorophyll). Here are brief summaries of the characteristics that we found for each plant:

Plant A: On average 22 cm tall, leaves 3-3.5 cm long, layers of leaves coming from the center of the stem.

Plant B: On average 1.5 cm tall, leaves .5 cm long, average 3 heart-shaped leafs per stem.

Plant C: On average 30 cm tall, 2 cm wide, long blade.

Plant D: On average 18 cm tall, average 20 leaves per stem.

Plant E: On average 1.5 meters tall, leaves 2 cm long, 3 cm wide, leaves coming off the side from the stem, had red berries.

Plant F: On average 7 meters tall, leaves 9 cm long, 6 cm wide, leaves found in clumps of six, leaves sprout from sides of stem.

Plant G: On average 7 meters tall, leaves 10 cm long, 5.5 cm ide, leaves in clumps of five, leaves coming from the center.

Plant H: On average .3 mm tall, dark green

Plant I: On average 6-16cm in height, 0.4cm wide, flat and thin

Plant J: On average 4-14cm in height, fleshy stem 0.1cm wide, leaves 0.3cm wide

Plant K: On average 2-10cm in height, 0.1cm wide, leaves 0.3cm wide,

Plant L: On average 10-28cm in height, fleshy stem 0.1cm wide, leaves 0.6cm wide. Characterized by a wider top with small pods growing off of it. The top was 2.7cm in height, with orange and purple hairs growing between the pods. Pods were 0.4cm long, 0.1cm wide and green.

Plant M: On average 2cm long, fleshy stem less than 0.1cm, leaves 0.1cm long, 0.01cm wide, small and densely clustered on the stem.

Plant N: On average 5cm in height, red stem 2cm wide, green leaves with red edges sprouting from the top. Leaves were, on average, 0.5cm wide at their widest point.

We also examined “natural clusters,” as suggested by our funding agencies. We found no completely independent forms, although there were plants that seemed more dominant in areas. For example, plant A thrived in size and coverage, whereas plants H-N coexisted in equal coverage.

In response to the report on Farther we read previously, we were hesitant to classify our findings into categories such as “shrub-like” or “small.” Instead, we worked on identifying the plants individually, differentiating them by specific size (cm) and form (though we know that not every plant of the same type will have a set size and number of leaves, we recognized general proportions in width to height). The writers of the first report debated whether brown specimen, anomalous to others forms, were in fact plants. We attempted to disregard color, focusing instead on the forms themselves. Our findings (which found 14 plants) when contrasted with the other group’s (18) indicate that plant life at this scale is less diverse. We believe this is because the former group looked at plants through a lens of what they knew from Earth (for example, shrub-like, tree-like, grass-like), whereas we looked for quantitative characteristics and their relations to one another. If given more funding for equipment that would allow us to see the plants in smaller detail, we could surely classify them further.

LaKesha's picture

LaKesha, Sharhea, Shanika, Andy

With new funds, we were able to use more advanced scientific tools to explore the plant life on planet Nearer. Instead of using the techniques of the previous scientists who went to planet Nearer, we came up with a new technique. We felt that height had to do more with growth of a plant and not something that made it different. We also do not know how plants grow on this new planet, especially if plants that are below 2ft. now will be much taller later. We determined whether or not a plant was different based on its texture and shape.

The first plant we found was a clover like plant. It had multiple round edges and with our new tools we were able to see white hairy objects on the surface of the plant. Our next plant was oval shaped, very soft to the touch and the top had jagged edges. There were two more plants that were similar in shape but different in texture. They were both spade like but with our new tools we were able to see that one of the plants was covered in fur. The next plant was very different in shape. It was much longer and took the form of a spoon. The edges were very jagged, while the actual plant was very smooth. These plants were all clustered together, almost as if they were the border of this new planet. Our next plant we found was spread out a lot around the planet. It had many different lengths, but we determined them to be the same plant. This plant was sword like, long and thin with a pointy tip.

After observing the shrub like plants, we moved on to the larger tree like plants. On this planet, we were able to find three different types of tree like plants. We differentiated them by their form and their trunk texture. The first tree had a very short trunk. At first, we assumed that this tree did not have a trunk. The tree did have a trunk but it was very hard to find due to the massive amount of shrubs that were covering the adjacent area. From the trunk, multiple branches shot up towards the sky looking like an upside down rake. It also had a very smooth texture. The second tree had a slightly rough texture and had a clearly visible trunk. It was also unique in that it was covered in moss. The last tree had an extremely coarse texture. It had thick scale like barks covering the trunk like a knight’s armor. It had an extremely high trunk and had branches only in the very top, where it was unreachable for us. With the new tools, we were able to witness a brown sticky liquid coming out between the barks of the tree.

Our new tool was very useful to identify new plants that the previous groups missed. We did not discredit their observations but more likely added to it. We think these plant like materials will continue to grow due to liquid substance resembling water found on the Planet Nearer.

ekim's picture

Planet Nearer: The Second Expedition

Vivian Cruz, Saskia Guerrier, Eurie Kim

Like the other group who went to Planet Nearer last time, we agree with their categorization "Ground," "Above Ground", and "Above 2 feet."

Under the Ground category, we found 3 subtypes: A, B, C. Subtype A was 5 cm in height (on average), thin (.2 cm), and stiff. The coloring of subtype A was that of green and manila-ish, which could show aging and growth of this plant type because up-close with the magnifying glass, the texture proved to be similar. Subtype B had clover-like leaves about a 1 cm in width, and although we found another kind of plant that looked slightly different at a bigger scale, it looked the same (texture-wise) up-close. It was veiny and wrinkly. Subtype C was less than a millimeter in height (from the ground), and it was dark green and wrinkly.

Under the Above Ground category, we found 3 subtypes, as well: D, E, F. They all looked similar at a bigger scale, but when we looked at the leaves up-close, they were actually different in texture. D was waxy and its leaf size was about 3 by 6 cm, while E did not have that same waxy look and was 8 by 5 cm in size. E was grainy up-close and was 3 by 5 cm in size.

Under the Above 2 feet category, we found 4 subtypes: G, H, I, J. We actually found several trees that looked different at a bigger scale, but when looked up-close, they had similar traits, leading us to believe that these plant types were showing growth and development in age. Subtype G was rough, and had 1-cm cracks, rocky. Subtype H had 1-2 cm deep frail layers, was sandy in texture, and had 3-cm cracks. Subtype I had many branches and had furry, spiky, rough leaves, while Subtype J had weird horns growing on its leaves and had a bumpy, rough bark.

While the other group focused on height, texture, shape, and color, we focused more closely on height and texture because of the tools we were provided with.

From these observations, we can say that at a smaller scale, we found more similarities within the plant life on Planet Nearer. And these similarities showed that plants could grow and age differently.

kgould's picture

Marie, Kate, Catrina

In making our new observations, we started with the same classification system from the first group's voyage to Planet Farther--> Plant--- structure---height---shape---color and from this we have group A, B, C, D and E.

Under A, we looked at the skinny brown tubes that extended off of larger/thicker brown tubes. One was named Amelia, and her tube was curvy, a lighter brown, with white specks covering her. The other tube, Alexander, was much straighter, darker, and rougher in texture (and attitude!). We also looked at their flat, wide green pieces. Alexander's had a serated edge and the other was much smoother. Also, the serated green piece had small, geometric groupings/unit throughout its surface. Amelia's had a smoother green piece and also had these groupings, but they were in much larger groups. Thus, based on these differences, we observed both Amelia and Alexander.

Under B, we found Billy Bob. He consisted of needle shaped entities, was shorter than both Amelia and Alexander, and his green pieces were more heavily concentrated. This time, we observed that Billy Bob's needles were 1.5 cm in height and about 2mm in width with narrowing at the tip. Unlike Amelia or Alexander, there were no groupings in Billy Bob's green pieces.

Under C, we found two new specimens. Starting with the one previously observed, Colin, we still foundhe contained small leaves and was totally green. However, under closer inspection, he also appeared waxy, and had no groupings or vertical lines. Also, among Colin lived a purple growth- more specifically, its pieces were purple and its tube was green- hopefulyl he is not sick! A new specimen discovered was Cindy-Lou, who was a lighter green color, very thin shaped and not nearly as heavy as Colin. Her seratations acted as dividers between groups of green parts. Also, her tubular extension felt fuzy, possibly due to what looks like little white threads coming off of it. Finally, we discovered a third specimen under C, named Christopher. His tubular extension's were extremely thin- about .5mm in width and 5cm in height. His flat green pieces on the top were 1 x1.5cm, rounded into an almost circular form. These green pieces also did not have any of the groupings found in A.

Under D, there were thin, movable, freestanding green strips. The first was Daniel, who was 21cm in height and 3mm in width. He contained vertical lines. The second was Delilah, and she was tubular and thin, and approx. 26cm in height and 1mm in width. At her highest point, she had fuzy, less than 1/10 of a mm brown strands, that came out of oval, green balls. Finally, we found Devon who was wild- spiky, composed of several different shoots, and on top of Devon was bumpy, pod-like extentsions. ]

Under E, we have, all by herself, Eve. Eve is fury, dark brown and green,very small- she is almost a part of the ground at about 2mm in height.

So, overall size does matter! The smaller the scale, the easier it was to observe and note differences, which led us to Amelia, Alexander, Billy Bob, Colin, Cindy Lou, Christopher, Delilah, Devon, Daniel and Eve! Using just the naked eye, it was harder for the previous group to discern all of Planet Farther's specimens. Even more, it was harder for them to see all the characteristics of each specimen. In looking to the future, maybe new explorers will see even more than we were able to today!


PS2007's picture

Planet Nearer Revisited

Ashley Savannah

Kerlyne Jean

Paige Safyer

Darwin’s Exploration Extended

In our second visit to planet nearer we decided to approach it from a small scale to see if the amount of diversity would change and gather any other new observations. Our initial thoughts were that there would be more diversity on a smaller scale, but after sorting through our observations we have come up with a summary that there are more similarities among the different groups when looked at from a smaller scale.

When we reexamined group G we found that it was made up of flat parallel lines, which numbered ten or more and stood about eight centimeters high. Under group G we discovered a new form of life which we named M. This substance was fuzzy and grew very close to the ground; it seemed almost embedded underneath G.

When we looked at P from a smaller scale we found that the specimen was very closely packed together. P had once central tube that connected about eleven flat, green, paper-like objects, covered with three lines visible to the human eye. When we looked through the magnifying glass we were able to see polygon like structures and specs covering these objects. We also noticed that there was a cluster of nodules connected to the central tube of the plant which also had lines on them.

T1 was made up of many small brown tubes. When we examined these tubes underneath the magnifying glass what we saw was similar to the pattern on the objects connected to P. The flat, paper-like objects connected to T1 were small, green and pear shaped. They also had lines and smaller polygon like structures on them. Looking at T1B under the magnifying glass also showed polygon like structures on the brown tubular structure and the green paper like objects connected to it. We also found many differences between these two structures. The parts of T1B were more closely packed together and the paper-like objects were larger with a fuzzy texture with lines that could be seen by the human eye.

T2 had a smaller structure, and only consisted of one brown tubular structure. Its flat, paper-like objects were smooth to the touch and also made up of polygon like structures. T3 was very similar to T2 but the tubular like structure was much larger and thicker. Its leaves were a lot smaller than T2 but still contained the polygon design.

We learned a lot from our second expedition to planet nearer. We would like to examine it from an even smaller scale to see if we could find more diversity. It was really interesting to see how much more we noticed the second time around.

Jen's picture

Planet Nearer!

Jennifer Bonczar, Kendra Sykes, Rachel Mabe

Lab Report from Planet Nearer

We observed five categories of plants: Category M, Category G, Category S, Category P and Category T.

There were three types of Category M. One type, we observed closer to the ground, was green and leafy and the other two types were observed on a Category T specimen called T3. One of the two types observed on T3 was flat and minty green while the other was stringy and darker green. Both of these types were found along the length of T3. All all these types were less than one centimeter tall.

The next category is Category G. Of this category we observed two types. One type, G1, had taller and thinner strand, some of which were brown, and the tallest strand measured 14.3 cm and a strand measured 1mm across. The other type of this category, G2, was green and was both thicker and shorter. One strand measured 9.5 cm tall and 4mm across. When observed from the hand lens, both of these types looked very similar, consisting of vertical veins and a glossy texture.

Category S is a new discovery! There were 8 varieties of Category S and they grew amongst Category G. This plant life differed in leaf shape, texture, vein shape and some were glossy. They measured between 1 and 4 cm.

We found three types of Category P. As with Category S, they differed in leaf shape, texture, color and vein shape. They measured between 35 and 40 cm tall.

Our last category, Category T, consisted of four different specimens. The first specimen, T1, measured 4.95 meters. The second specimen, T1B, that was only slightly different from T1, measured 3.30 meters. Another specimen, T2, measured 8.25 meters and the last specimen, T3, measured 24.7 meters. We measured these specimens by using Kendra's height and held the pen up and backed up until the pen matched her height. Then, using the pen we measured how many pens the tree was tall.

Although we built upon the observations of earlier work on the Planet, by using a small scale we were able to observe more different types of plant life.

kharmon's picture

Planet Farther

Samar Aryani

Ruth Goodlaxson

Kyree Harmon

We explored planet Farther. Having read the previous reports on the planet, we decided that core height was the most logical way to classify the different kinds of plant life. We agreed with and utilized their observation that there were 5 different types of plants, however, we found more diversity within the smaller types because we used a smaller spatial scale. Within group A, the group resemblant of Earth's grass, we found 6 different species. A1 was composed of a single green blade with a single waxy leaf life object. The average core was approximately 2 cm high. A2 plants had a single green core from which 2 green blades extended and its cores were generally 3.5 cm. A3s were multi leaved with a brown core that stood approximately 5 cm. A4 plants were a single green core that extended into a blade and averaged 6 cm in height. A5s had a strawlike green core of approximately 13cm with ends that resembled grains. Lastly A6 appeared to be an extended version of A1 that was scare and found growing within type B populations. Their cores were approximately 40 cm high. In type B, our "small plant" category, there were 2 variations. B1 was prickly with a green core and long leaves with cerated edges. The cores were approximately 10 cm. B2 has multiple levels of foliage and multiple "leaves" that were scalloped edged. These cores were about 20 cm. Type C plants were those most resembling Earth's bushes. C1 had firm foliage with thin, short, bladelike leaves that encompassed a brown complex core. The cores were very difficult to measure due to their complexity, but the approximation was 135 cm. C2 had more rounded, shorter bladelike leaves that appeared to be darker and flimsier than the C1s. The leaves also had budded ends and the core appeared to be around 100 cm. Our observations of type D closely correspond to that of the inital observations made about planet Farther. There were 2 different variations, 1 with a funnel shape, and low foliage that faced upward. The core appeared to be about 700 cm when compared to the height of the C plants. 2 appeared fan shaped with leaves that faced downward and the core was estimated to be about 400 cm (using the same method of comparison). Lastly type E was resemblant of Earth's moss or lichen. E1 was leaf like, light, and low to the ground at approximately 1 mm. E2 was fuzzy and carpet like, darker, and less than 1 mm off the ground. Overall, we found that by using a smaller scale, there appears to be more diversity and an increase in the number of plant categories. The smaller scale actually created more categories because our small grouos could be divided into smaller subgroups based on structure AND height.