Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why Are There No Unicorns?

Date:
May 30, 2007
Source:
John Innes Centre
Summary:
Why are there no unicorns? Perhaps horses develop in a way that cannot be easily modified to produce a unicorn, so such creatures have never arisen. Or maybe unicorn-like animals have been born in the past but because there is no advantage for a horse to have a horn, such creatures did not thrive and were weeded out by natural selection.

Why are there no unicorns? Perhaps horses develop in a way that cannot be easily modified to produce a unicorn, so such creatures have never arisen. Or maybe unicorn-like animals have been born in the past but because there is no advantage for a horse to have a horn, such creatures did not thrive and were weeded out by natural selection.

Related Articles


The problem highlights a general issue in evolutionary biology of what determines the range of plants and animals we see compared to those that might have evolved theoretically. To what extent does observed biodiversity reflect the rules of development or the action of Darwinian selection?

To address this problem, Enrico Coen at the John Innes Centre and Dr. Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz and colleagues at the University of Calgary analysed not Unicorns, but a more tractable system, the evolution of flower branching displays, or inflorescences. Flowering plants have three basic types of inflorescence - racemes, cymes and panicles.

Theoretically there are many other possible branching arrangements so why has nature chosen only these three? The researchers showed how the three types arise quite naturally from a simple mathematical model for how growing tips switch to make flowers. The model was supported by experimental studies on genes in the garden weed Arabidopsis.

So it looks like the way genes control development plays an important role in determining what sorts of structure evolve. But the researchers also showed that selection plays a key part in setting the routes that evolution may take within the space of possibilities. They revealed novel paths, called evolutionary wormholes that link together different inflorescence types, allowing one to evolve into another. Perhaps there are no Unicorns because no evolutionary wormholes exist that connect them to horses, or maybe the wormholes are there but evolution has not had time to go down them. The riddle of the Unicorn remains but at least scientists now have a more rigorous mathematical and experimental framework in which to consider such issues.

Reference: Evolution and development of inflorescence architectures, Prusinkiewicz, P., Lane, B., Harder, L. D., Erasmus, Y. & Coen, E. Science, 24 May 2007. (10.1126/science.1140429)


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by John Innes Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

John Innes Centre. "Why Are There No Unicorns?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070530092859.htm>.
John Innes Centre. (2007, May 30). Why Are There No Unicorns?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070530092859.htm
John Innes Centre. "Why Are There No Unicorns?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070530092859.htm (accessed April 21, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cleaners Find Ancient Peru Mummy

Cleaners Find Ancient Peru Mummy

Reuters - News Video Online (Apr. 15, 2015) Cleaners in Peru stumble across an ancient mummy mysteriously dumped near rubbish in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan. Rough cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
388 Unidentified Pearl Harbor Victims To Be Exhumed, ID'd

388 Unidentified Pearl Harbor Victims To Be Exhumed, ID'd

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2015) The Department of Defense is exhuming the unidentified remains of 388 servicemen who died on board the USS Oklahoma in 1941. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manuscript by Nazi Code Breaker Alan Turing Sells for $1 Million

Manuscript by Nazi Code Breaker Alan Turing Sells for $1 Million

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Apr. 13, 2015) Alan Turing&apos;s notebook containing the foundations of mathematics and computer science sells at auction for $1,025,000 (USD). Roselle Chen reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Replica Cave Showcases Artistry of Stone Age Man

Replica Cave Showcases Artistry of Stone Age Man

AFP (Apr. 10, 2015) A replica of a cave in the Ardeche, in southern France will be opened Friday to give visitors the chance to see cave paintings produced around 36,000 years ago. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins