Evolution and the Genetics of Weeds – Skip Generation Mistakes Experiment

Over the last year, I’ve been doing quite a bit of yard work myself, and I’ve done a few experiments. There’s one I’d like to explain to you, it is a case study and observation which may be of value to your work if you are an evolutionary biologist working with plant life. Let me explain.

While I was gardening I saw a weed that had its leaves upside down. It didn’t grow as big as the other weeds of its type, obviously it wasn’t getting the sunlight since the leaves were facing the other way, but there must have been enough energy for the weed to at least grow to a smaller size. I decided to leave the little weed, and take out the bigger weeds surrounding it which had grown correctly. Each week I came back to see how it was doing, and it never grew much bigger and other weeds of its type had grown up around it, and every once in a while there was another weed of that type with the leaves also growing upside down.

Could it possibly be that that particular weed had a genetic defect, one that was passed down to subsequent generations? This happens in animal life all the time, where you get genetic mutation which is passed on. It’s obvious why this doesn’t happen very much, because the other weeds of its type will suffocate it and grow bigger taking all the sunlight, so the smaller version with the genetic mistake cannot reproduce. In a way that is survival of the fittest.

However when we intervened and took out the larger weeds and let the defective one grow, it did pass on these traits and it had viable offspring even if those genetic offspring were deficient. So let’s ask a question:

Do these weeds skip a generation with the genetic defects just as humans and animals do?

In the wild while there would not be a human around to protect them so the chances of them passing on this defect would be slim, but it would happen, and we can see evolution in weeds take place before our eyes. Having upside down leaves makes it hard for the weed to grow and harvest the sunlight energy it needs, but still grows a little bit.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you observe things, I suppose someone who was just doing their gardening would’ve pulled the weed, and not thought anything of it, but in this case it had caught my eye because it was out of place, unique, something different, and eventually I realized what was going on. You too can do experiments like this in your own backyard, I would submit to you that you should enjoy life and be more observant of the other types of life around you, because all life is interesting. Please consider all this and think on it in 2015.

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