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© Stéphanie HALLET / Fabrice BESNARD / RDP / CNRS Images



Tentacular budding

These tentacles reminiscent of some terrifying deep-sea monster turn out to be completely harmless. This is in fact the tip of a stem of Arabidopsis thaliana, a species in the same family as mustard and used as a model plant by geneticists. The image, magnified 300 times with an electron microscope, reveals the flowering process in a specimen carrying a genetic mutation. As a result, instead of producing normal flowers at intervals of 137°, the plant generates these irregularly-arranged tentacular structures. By studying this mutant, scientists hope to understand the cellular mechanisms that control the development of geometric shapes in plants.

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