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Optimizing Shapes and Geometries

multi-dimensional grpah of cell structure

Now, no you are not going blind. This is a very strange almost Escher-like perspective because this is a really multi-dimensional universe. It's virtually impossible to grasp visually. It has more than three axis. air vs water - environmental effects on cell structureBut, you can deal with it in a mathematical way by using computers to look at how organisms have changed their shape and tissue structure over evolutionary history to optimize light interception and gas exchange with either water or air. Starting with a single cell, the computer gives you the optimal shapes and geometries if you're in the water and the optimal shapes and geometries if you're on land and also if you're in a semi-aquatic environment. The different environments have different requirements.

liverwort and moss

I'm going to focus on these two geometries which are basically a cylinder and M&M shaped structures because the earliest plants which lacked vascular tissue, grew pretty much as dorsal ventral flattened thalloid M&M-like things or as cylindrical, vertical things, like this liverwort and moss whose architectures, however small, are basically a flattened thallus or a cylindrical axis that grows vertically. I don't have time to go into all the details but, these two geometries are what the computer essentially says are the optimal geometries and shapes for living on land. It's precisely what we see some of the earliest land plants looked like. Not to say that mosses and liverworts were the first land plants. But, we have good reason to believe that the earliest non-vascular land plants had geometries and shapes that looked very much like these.

various trees

Of course, the things that dominate our attention today are trees. I want to focus some attention today on these magnificent botanical architectures. I want to talk to you about their science.


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