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Friday, April 3, 2020
Home Life Return of the Killer Tomatoes

Return of the Killer Tomatoes

My phone died, so I’m catching up with podcasts. One I listen to is by the people behind QI, No Such Thing As A Fish. This week’s episode, No Such Thing As A Killer Tomato, starts with a brief discussion of tomatoes.

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Quite interesting, but not entirely right. The papers got over-excited in 2009 by the paper Murderous plants: Victorian Gothic, Darwin and modern insights into vegetable carnivory by Chase et al. when it mentioned wild tomatoes possibly catch small insects. It’s a good paper, but it’s not strong evidence for a killer tomato. Instead it could be evidence for proto-carnivory, which might be a step on the way to becoming a carnivorous plant.

However, in 2010 PLOS One published Turning the Table: Plants Consume Microbes as a Source of Nutrients by Paungfoo-Lonhienne et al. Paungfoo-Lonhienne’s team found that roots from Tomato (and Arabidopsis) absorbed microbes, and then broke them down in the roots. The clever bit was tagging the Nitrogen in the microbes with 15N. When the plant’s leaves were tested a couple of weeks later, the team found elevated levels of 15N in the leaves, showing the nutrients had moved from the microbes into the plant tissues and the microbe had been eaten.

Which shows there is such a thing as a killer tomato.

Alun Salthttp://alunsalt.com
Alun is the Producer for Botany One. It's his job to keep the server running. He's not a botanist, but started running into them on a regular basis while working on writing modules for an Interdisciplinary Science course and, later, helping teach mathematics to Biologists. His degrees are in archaeology and ancient history.



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