09 December 2011

Last of the Lomatia

Wondering what's going on here? This is a clipping of the 43,600-year-old Lomatia Tasmanica, propagated in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.

There is only one single living individual Lomatia Tasmanica left in the world. It flowers, rarely, and there are pollen and a stigma in each flower, but as the plant is a triploid, it is sterile. [corrected from original post.] And it is 43,600 years old. How is that possible? It's growing clonally, as you've heard me talk about before: it continues to send up new shoots, without the introduction of new genetic material.

I was not granted permission to visit the Lomatia in the wild (more on my thoughts about the Tasmanian Parks Department later), though I was glad to see it in the Gardens. The clippings propagated there and one in Canberra are the only other places it can be found in the world, and even then it is not on public display. The clippings are so sensitive, in fact, that the only time one spent half a day in public view in slighly different conditions, it died. That hardly bodes well for its survival.

The Lomatia Tasmanica is continuing its line in the only possible way it can: by cloning itself over and over again, theoretically forever, though that is unlikely given the instability of our climate to come.


Fred M said...

I feel sorry for this poor tree.

leslie said...

Hi Rachel

I saw your presentation on the worlds oldest living things (online). I was wondering if you ventured into the area of how these things managed to stay alive, to sustain themselves etc. My thoughts are that thought each species has a life limit (with the exception of the ‘immortal one’), from zero to whatever, they usually live to their natural end. Most if not all of the species you mentioned, don’t mess with their nutrient source(S). In large part because, as u said, many of them can’t move – the tree et al. The ones that can move still keep to their regions and the nutrients available. The rooted plants depend on their soil and water to remain status quo – uncontaminated by other extraneous variables (most notably man).

I suppose taking a piss behind the old oak tree may not impact the soil –??? but long term contaminants which are more toxic will.

It is disease, and viruses and all manner of pathogens that can mal effect each and every species, but it is also the strength or weakness of each species’ immune system that enables it to defend against or succumb to these pathogens. All species can adapt over millennium to a myriad of potentially infectious entities however, when suddenly and radically besieged with a new crop of foreign elements many of these species don’t stand a chance. And their chances of survival again are lessoned if their immune systems are weakened – by way of messing with their nutrient source. Or, taking them out of their natural host environment of origin, for “testing”, as was the case with the clam from Iceland that you spoke of.

It is the messing with nutrients that is at the heart of the issue. The redwood trees are just fine until we screw with the soil. We humans mess with our nutrients day in and day out, and as a result we have more diseases than all the other species. 12,000 and counting. No other species can come close. No other species can even claim 100 diseases. Not yet any way. We, man, are working on that. We are doing everything in our power to increase the amount of diseases the other species have.

BTW nice pictures Oliver