Biology in Fiji

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July 27, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Ecosystem Restoration: Coral Planting Project in Votua Village

Today was a very exciting day but sad day at the same time. It was a very amusing day because we got to participate in a variety of different interesting activities but at the same time it was melancholic because it was the last activity of this trip. Although I was very ill and did not have a chance to participate in the activities, I enjoyed in watching the activities. It was fun seeing kids snorkel and contribute to a major coral reef restoration project by planting corals in the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, after we left the coral plantation and went to Votua Village, it was entertaining  watching the traditional Fijian welcoming Kava ceremonies. Furthermore, in Votua Village I learned a lot about coral reefs and the village’s impact on their restoration, from a local’s PowerPoint presentation. imagesCA5Q5QVU                                              


                The main educational component of the trip was learning about ecosystem restoration through marine conservation efforts in Votua Village. In Votua Village we spent the afternoon learning about the coral planting project that helps preserve and restore damaged biodiversity. Biodiversity is the richness and variation of life seen in healthy ecosystems on Earth. It is an enormous food web in which energy flows from autotrophs (organisms that can make their own food) to heterotrophs (organisms that must consume other organisms for food).  Biodiversity is very important because the more species there are in a food web (the more biodiverse it is) the more stable the ecosystem is because if one of the species is taken away or becomes extinct it will not have a destructive impact on other species and the rest of the food web is more likely to survive. In simpler terms, greater diversity gives the ecosystem more resilience to changes in the environment.



Even though Fiji is a considerably small country, it hosts the largest reef system in the South Pacific (10000km2) and the sixth largest coral reef system in the world (covering 3.5% of the world’s reef area). Coral reefs play a major role in keeping ecosystems stable and thus, supporting biodiversity. In order to understand the ecological impact of coral reefs, it is necessary to have basic knowledge on what coral reefs really are. Essentially, corals are the largest biological structures on earth (covering 0.1% of the world’s oceans and providing home for more than 25% of all marine species) built by tiny coral animals called coral polyps. By growing 1cm every year, the coral polyps eventually grow into the exotic, fascinating huge corals, and after thousands of years they form into large coral reefs. In simpler terms, coral reefs are formed by tiny coral colonies. The reason they are key in keeping ecosystems stable is because they support diverse, complex food chains by providing food for small fish and animals which are a source of food for even larger fish and animals. Nevertheless, coral reefs also provide enormous income and economic opportunities around the world. Their global value is $375billion/year which comes from fisheries, tourism, aquarium trade, research/education, and ecosystem services.  Additionally coral reefs protect shorelines from waves and erosions; and represent a source of food, medicine, and cultural identity-in Fiji.

 Moon Reef,

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Unfortunately, these coral reefs are slowly being destroyed by many different factors. In Fiji the coral reefs are impacted by several negative factors: overharvesting of corals (either for souvenirs or for economic purposes); destructive fishing practices; pollution from boats and wastewater pollution; and sedimentation/runoff from land. Due to these different factors leading to the progressive damage to coral reefs, Votua Village’s coral planting project is working hard to restore marine ecosystems.

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Votua Village’s coral planting project comprises various different methods of protecting and restoring coral reefs.  Firstly, the people of the village are using research- learning more about state of resources, assessing management effectiveness, and improving understanding of the natural environment. Secondly, the village is using education and training-improving understanding of environmental issues, and building capacity to manage them. Lastly, the people of Votua Village are hoping to restore coral reefs through community development-by improving standard of living and quality of life. In addition to using research, education and community development, Votua Village is also using various marine management tools: protection of individual species, restrictions on fishing gear, and spatial protection across ecosystem/habitats. What I like a lot about the project’s approach is how it educates and trains the entire community in order to get it effectively involved in the restoration of coral reefs.

Because the village wants to accomplish plentiful things with its coral planting project, the community-based project’s objectives are divided into short-term goals and long-term goals. The coral restoration project’s short term goals are: creating a guided snorkeling tour along a marked trail through the MPA (Marine Protected Area) and improving community knowledge about corals. assuring sustainable financing to support coral planting and conservation efforts, providing jobs/income for local community, and promoting the marine environments to tourists. Its long term objectives are: improving abundance of coral in MPA –particularly rare species, improving participation in marine conservation, assuring sustainable financing to support coral planting and conservation efforts, providing jobs/income for local community, promoting the marine environments to tourists, and integrating community’s efforts with tourism market.

Nevertheless, one of Votua Vilage’s primary methods of preserving marine ecosystems through the restoration of coral reefs is developing sustainable wastewater treatment systems & water supplies for coastal Fijian villages. The project is referred to as the Pilot Wetland Project. While human health is affected by: poor water quality, weak water pressure and insufficient water supply, coral reefs are also impacted by wastewater pollution. We may not realise it but all the poor decisions we make on land, significantly impact the ocean. Wastewater pollution is an environmentally dangerous problem because when contaminated water runs off to the ocean it is full of nutrients. In the ocean these nutrients fertilize algae helping it to overgrow & kill corals; prevents new coral from growing, & damages important habitat for fish. The wastewater treatment project’s primary objective is improving the health of the people as well as the rivers & reefs on which they depend for their livelihood by developing, testing, and demonstrating sustainable (low tech / easy to maintain) wastewater treatment solutions for Fiji and South Pacific island nations. Votua Village is ensuring that most of the village gets clean water by using resource mapping and identification of threats, stream profiling, ground surveys, as well as capacity building (the help of the villagers to design and construct the sewage systems). But what I really found interesting and effective about the project is how it uses joint planning and youth educational activities in order to effectively build sewage treatments, ensuring the protection of human health and coral reefs. It is evident that the Pilot Wetland Project is doing very well because so far it has removed 93% of nitrogen, 96% of phosphorus, and has reduced bacteria by a magnitude of 2x.



The village’s second approach to restoring coral reefs is by planting new coral. Several materials are necessary for coral planting; cement and mixing drum, spade, glue, stick, and growing rack (mesh wire with metal). The first step of planting coral is collecting a portion of colonies of rare corals. The second step is producing cement coral bases. After the cement coral bases are made, the colonies of rare corals are fragmented into small pieces and attached in cement bases. These fragments are grown on to racks until they are larger and ready to be placed in already existing corals or in ocean grounds. Not only can coral reefs be restored through the planting of new corals, but they can also be restored through the transplant of coral colonies. This is done by removing small pieces of coral from large healthy corals and transplanting them around the MPA’s and snorkelling trails.



While the coral planting project is doing many things effectively in order to restore coral reefs and preserve biodiversity, there is room for improvement. The biggest way in which Votua Village’s coral planting project could improve in is if the government steps in firmly. By establishing governmental laws that restrict destructive fishing, overharvesting and wastewater pollution in MPA’s, coral reefs would be restored more rapidly and biodiversity would absolutely be preserved in a more efficient manner.

By analyzing Votua Village’s coral planting project it is clear that the village is progressing rapidly in its marine conservation efforts. It already hosts advanced coral reef research and education, as well as guided snorkeling tours that incorporate the planting of new corals. While it has many different objectives planned out, just like in all projects there are various possible ways to improve. Most importantly, if the government assisted with the coral plating project by establishing strict laws against destructive fishing in MPA’s and financing projects looking to stop sedimentation and wastewater pollution, the coral reefs would be restored more quickly, creating a more stable marine ecosystem.

July 26, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Speciation of the Grand Elephant (Enorme Elephante)



Since planet Earth was formed, species have been gradually evolving into new species. Evolution has been a constant competition of the fittest and strongest animals. In order to understand the fascinating and never ending process of evolution it is necessary to know what the term species means. A species is a group of animals that can breed together under natural condition. Speciation is the formation of a new species. Once animals become different enough that they can no longer breed, they become a new species. The following is a made up story of a fictional island in Fiji that explains the speciation of a species of elephant.


Two million BC, a species of elephants called the Grand Elephant (Enorme Elephante) roamed the main island of Fiji known as Tabulakala. This species of elephants originated from Thailand 5 million years ago, but after the Asian continent and the Oceania islands collided, the Grand Elephant migrated to Tabulakala, an island about the same size as all of the current Fijian islands combined. The island was primarily composed of three different types of landscapes: beaches and water, rocky plains and jungles. Evidently and fortunately for the Grand Elephant there were still no signs of humans on the island which meant that the elephant had no predators (human hunting) because the species just below the Grand Elephant on the food chain was the lynx. The island was mainly surrounded by sandy beaches and the Pacific Ocean. Along the north coast of the island, the land was covered by rocky mountainous plains and towards the south coast, thick jungles covered the island.


The Grand Elephant, being an omnivore (unlike the elephant species today), profited from the variety of plants and animals found in the thick bushes and on the rocky plains.  Because the vascular plants averaged 8 metres in height (tall trees as well as small shrubs), in order to adapt to the food, the Grand Elephant was approximately 3 metres tall and its trunk was about 5 metres, which allowed the elephant to reach the top of the plants where the elephant’s food was mainly found, as well as the small shrubs. Because the jungle was very thick, the Grand Elephant had very rough skin and rigid, long tusks, and a bulky body that allowed the elephant to cut down the trees it did not feed on, allowing it to walk through the rainforest. Additionally, because the Grand Elephant was an omnivore, it also fed on lynx which lived among the rocky mountainous plains, hunting hairs and rabbits. The reason the Grand Elephant mostly preyed on lynx is because other animals were too small to nourish it. In order to catch the lynx, the elephant had some impressive body structures, which include: strong hind and back legs, rough paws and a very tough tail. The rough paws allowed the elephant to move over the rough and sharp rocks; and its strong legs in addition to its agile body allowed the Grand elephant to move rapidly and swiftly through the slightly dense bushes and large rocks on the mountains. The powerful tail was besides the elephant’s large tusks and trunk, a lethal weapon that allowed the Grand Elephant to fight off large groups of lynx if they were to attack from its back.  Furthermore, the Grand Elephant adapted from Thailand’s hard tiger meat and slightly thin skin to the lynx’s tougher skin but much softer meat, by growing large canine teeth-that were meant to rip the hard skin apart as well as two rows of molar teeth-that were meant for chewing the soft meat.


But unfortunately for the Grand Elephant, 700 000 years after it perfectly adapted to Tabulakala’s conditions, a catastrophe happened. An enormous earthquake-unlike anything we have seen in the history of geographic catastrophes shook the island, dividing it into half. One of the islands, known as Jungulala Island was covered primarily in thick jungles while the second island named Rokiroki Island due its mostly plain rocky surfaces, contained most of the animals since only insects and some species of birds lived in the tall jungles. Because big island Tabulakala was divided into two smaller islands, the landscapes of the two different islands varied significantly-allowing speciation to occur. The enormous elephants on Jungulala Island became known as Gigantic-Trunk Elephants (Ginormes Elephante) while the smaller elephants on Rokiroki were classified as the Small-Trunk elephants (Petites Elephante). Specifically two different methods of speciation occurred that inhibited the now two different types of elephant species from mating and reproducing: mechanical isolation and ecological isolation. Ecological isolation was the most obvious reason explaining the incapability of reproduction between the Small-Trunk elephants and the gigantic-trunk elephants. Since the two islands had significantly different conditions (one with a rocky landscape and the other covered in thick tall jungles) the two species of elephants had very different habitats, preventing them from mating together. Additionally, mechanical isolation represented the second method of speciation because by living and different conditions, the Small-Trunk elephant adapted very different structural traits compared to the gigantic-trunk elephant further preventing the elephants from physically reproducing.  Essentially, the sexual organ of the Gigantic-Trunk Elephant was much larger than that of the Small-Trunk Elephant, preventing the two species from physically reproducing.


In order to survive and thrive on their islands, the Small-TrunkElephant and the Gigantic-Trunk elephant adapted almost opposite physical structures. Rokiroki Island was covered by big, sharp rocks that hosted abundant amounts of shrubs. In order to feed on the small shrubs-which were the only family of plants on the island, the Small-Trunk elephant developed a smaller trunk. Compared to the Grand Elephant, the Small-Trunk Elephant was on average 2000 pounds lighter. Additionally, in order to hunt the lynxes, the Small-Trunk Elephant had a significantly smaller body, very strong hind legs (similar to those of tigers) and canine teeth that can tear through animal flesh. Also, its paws were very rough and had claws that could grip onto prey more easily and balance on the unstable, sharp rocks. The Small-Trunk Elephant was classified as an omnivore because it hunted lynx with its strong jaws and canine teeth and fed on shrubs with their small trunks.


Contrary to the smaller body size and trunk of the Small-Trunk Elephant, since the Gigantic-Trunk Elephant’s lived in tall, thick jungles, it had developed different physical traits. In order to reach the coconuts and coconut leaves (its primary source of food) situated at the top of the very tall coconut trees, the elephant developed a long trunk-about 11 metres in length; and a very large body-7 metres in height and about 6000 pounds heavier than the Small-Trunk Elephant. The Gigantic-Trunk Elephant was categorized as a herbivore because it only fed on plants: coconuts and coconut leaves. Furthermore, in contrast to the Small-Trunk Elephant, the Gigantic-Trunk Elephant had much larger paws and legs but they were not as muscular because this species of elephant was not required to hunt prey. Also, while the Gigantic-Trunk Elephant’s paws were very large in comparison to the Small0Trunk Elephant, it did not have claws because the grounds of the rainforests were continually wet and gooey so there was no need to grab on to things for balance. Lastly, the Gigantic-Trunk Elephant had enormous tusks that were used to knock down trees in order to create passageways through the dense jungle.


This fictional story on elephant species demonstrates a clear example of how species are continually formed into new species through a process called speciation. This fictional example of evolution of the Grand Elephant explains how species adapt to different environments through mutations in their DNA. In this case, the story elaborates on how the Grand Elephant evolved into two different species through ecological isolation and mechanical isolation (two factors that inhibit two species from mating and reproducing together) which is essentially what speciation is.


July 26, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

A Recent Medical Concern: Antibiotic Resistance

During our stay in Fiji, we learned about unicellular organisms and multicellular organisms such as bacteria (which can be both). What we did not learn about bacteria though is their role in antibiotic resistance. Bacteria are living organisms existing as single cells. They are found everywhere around us (we cannot escape them!) and luckily most don’t cause any harm, and can sometimes even be beneficial. However, some bacteria are harmful and can cause illness by invading the human body, multiplying, and interfering with the regular functions of the human body.

     Streptococus bacteria



Staphylococcus bacteria


Until the 1940s, when antibiotic drugs were discovered, people with infections like tuberculosis, pneumonia and site sexually transmitted infections often died because the existent treatments were not very effective. But then due to the discovery of antibiotic drugs in the early 1940’s, the ability to fight diseases improved dramatically. The second half of the 20th century has been outlined by the critical impact of antibiotics in the fight against infectious diseases caused by harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. Antibiotics are very useful natural substances secreted by bacteria and fungi to kill other harmful bacteria that are competing for limited nutrients. They kill harmful bacteria by stopping their growth and reproduction. Examples of antibiotics include penicillin (first antibiotic drug to be discovered) and tetracycline. They are the most widely used medications to treat, and prevent bacterial infections. One of the examples of antibiotics that have been a very purposeful discovery in medicine is antimicrobial chemotherapy. This form of chemotherapy has been a leading cause for the dramatic rise of average life expectancy in the 20th century and has saved many lives.






However, in recent years doctors and scientists have been dismayed to discover that some bacteria have become resistant to certain antibiotics through various mutations and alterations in their DNA. The resistance of harmful bacteria to antibiotics is called antibiotic resistance. It is very shocking to hear that nowadays about 70 percent of the bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one of the drugs most commonly used for treatment of various dangerous diseases and illnesses. Wound infections, and illnesses such as gonorrhea, tuberculosis, pneumonia and childhood ear infections are just a few of the diseases that have become very difficult to treat with antibiotic drugs. In a study conducted in 2012, 25% of bacterial pneumonia cases were shown to be resistant to penicillin, and an additional 25% of cases were resistant to more than one antibiotic. Furthermore, some organisms are resistant to all approved antibiotics and can only be treated with experimental and potentially toxic drugs.  One of the major reasons behind this medical problem is the resilience of bacteria and other microorganisms to resist antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs. Lately, hospitals have become a breeding ground for antibiotic resistant bacteria. These bacteria strive in such environments; a place filled with sick, vulnerable people with low immune systems environment, and where antibiotics do not have to compete with non-resistant bacteria. The second explanation to this problem is the significantly increasing use, and misuse, of existing antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine, as well as in agriculture.




The bacteria’s capability of fighting against antibiotics is a perfect example of evolution. Antibiotic resistance evolves naturally by evolutionary change through which random mutations in the bacteria’s genes occur and multiply rapidly. When an antibiotic is given, it kills the sensitive bacteria, but any resistant ones can survive and multiply. The more antibiotics are used (this includes animals, plants and of course humans) the greater the “selective pressure” will be, favouring resistant bacteria. This is an example of Charles Darwin’s idea of “natural selection” which supports his Theory of Evolution.





Additionally, an overuse or inappropriate use of antibiotic drugs in preventing or treating infections in people, animals and plants was found to accelerate the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Germs constantly adapt to their environment and have the ability to take on the characteristics of other germs. When antibiotics are used inappropriately, the weak bacteria are killed, while the stronger, more resistant ones survive and multiply. An example of improper use of antibiotics deals with not finishing the entire prescription. When the prescription is not terminated, the small quantity that remains in the bacteria grows resistant to that antibiotic and is easily capable of spreading and infecting other humans who have not taken any antibiotics. Then once resistance has been established, it is an irreversible and destructive cycle of resistant bacteria evolving rapidly. In fact, overnight, one bacterium can multiply to become a billion.

Antibiotic resistance is to some extent inevitable because we cannot stop using antibiotics, but physicians and patients can both stop or slow down the antibiotic resistant bacteria from developing and spreading. Physicians should strongly be discouraged to prescribe antibiotics for inappropriate uses such as mild coughs, colds and sore throats because antibiotics cannot cure viral infections, which include simple coughs. Instead, antibiotics should only be prescribed if the patient shows signs of a bacterial infection. Furthermore, doctors should always advise their patients, if they are prescribed antibiotics, to complete the full course; because stopping before the end of a course may facilitate the development of resistant bacteria. This is absolutely essential for more severe illnesses such as tuberculosis. Also, it is important to reduce the use of antibiotics in farm animals because usually resistant bacteria develop in animals and are transferred to humans through food. Lastly and evidently, hygiene and sanitation should certainly not be disregarded, especially in hospitals where resistant bacteria proliferate.


There are many reasons for different rates of resistance: antibiotic use, underlying diseases, immunisation rates, social factors and quality of hospital care. Unfortunately for Fiji, because it is still a developing country it has a higher resistance to antibiotics. One of the reasons behind this is because developing countries have considerably lower control of the use of antibiotics. The inappropriate use of the antibiotic drugs thus, allows the rapid overtaking of resistant bacteria. The remote villages and islands of Fiji definitely have higher antibiotic resistance rates compared to a developed country like Canada because not only there medical care is not nearly as advanced but they are not offered adequate antibiotic treatment and the immunisation rates are lower-all of course because of poverty issues. For example, while antibiotic resistant diseases are rare in developing countries like Canada, in Fiji many children develop a disease called Shigellosis because it had developed resistance to its antibiotics.


Clearly, antibiotics have saved many lives in the second half of the 20th century due to their powerful ability to kill harmful bacteria meanwhile helping cure severe illnesses such as tuberculosis. But while rapid medical discoveries were continually being unfolded, lately, the harmful bacteria originally being killed off by the drugs have started showing strong resistance to the antibiotics thus decreasing their useful effects. Additionally, to make matters worse for developing countries such as Fiji, the lack of careful and appropriate use of antibiotics has increased the spread and effect of antibiotic resistance over the course of the last few year


July 26, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Lactase Evolution and Lactose Intolerance in Fiji (Natural Selection)

During the last three weeks of my stay in Fiji, I interacted with many different Native Fijians. By eating Fijian traditional food and getting accustomed to their cultural customs, I was able to realize the significant cultural difference between Fijian society and our society. One of the major differences I noticed in the food here in Fiji is the lack of meals containing dairy products.

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It is probably very hard to believe for most that in today’s world, the majority of adults are lactose intolerant. In fact, about 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. However, in certain populations, the exact opposite is true, such as in Canada and the United States. Most people consume milk on a daily basis without even thinking about it-they enjoy in protein shakes, yogurt, ice cream and cheese. What is sad however is that milk for some people constitutes a nightmare that causes stomach cramps, bloating, gas, throwing up, gurgling or rumbling sounds in the belly as well as diarrhea. This is because those people have a condition called lactose intolerance. Also known as lactase deficiency, lactose intolerance is a condition that inhibits certain humans from digesting lactose (a natural type of milk found in sugar and in dairy products). It is caused by the lack of a protein essential in the digestion of food molecules, called lactase, which is vital for the breakdown of milk sugar (lactose). Humans with this condition have difficulty digesting milk products (since they contain diary) – in fact a couple of glasses of milk wreak havoc on their digestive systems.







Unfortunately, even though lactose intolerance is not a severe condition, there is no cure for the condition However, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be treated by limiting or avoiding milk products. Possible methods of reducing the uncomfortable symptoms include: using milk with reduced lactose, and substituting soy milk and soy cheese for milk and milk products. By doing these things, it is possible to eat yogurt without problems, especially yogurt with live cultures. Another helpful method of consuming dairy products consist of taking dietary supplements called lactase products that help digest lactose. Nevertheless, while it is possible to manage symptoms of lactose intolerance, the biggest concern for people with lactose intolerance is the lack of calcium intake. Milk contains many important nutrients, one being calcium but humans who are lactose intolerant cannot consume these nutrients as it is dangerous for them to intake dairy products.





One explication behind the inheritance of lactose intolerance is genetics.  In infants lactose intolerance is caused by mutations in the LCT gene, whose responsibility is providing instructions for the production of lactase enzyme. Scientists believe that mutations that cause lactose intolerance interfere with the function of lactase, causing affected infants to have a severely impaired ability to digest lactose in their mother’s breast milk or in milk formulas. Furthermore, lactose intolerance can also be caused in adulthood. Adults inherit lactose intolerance by the slowly decreasing function of the LCT gene after the infant stage. Normal individuals are able to digest lactose because they inherit changes in a DNA sequence referred to as a regulatory element, which controls the LCT gene expression. The inherited changes in this element lead to normal lactase production in the small intestine which leads to sustained digestion of lactose. Nonetheless, the reason humans become lactose intolerant is because they do not inherit changes in the element which causes the inability to digest lactose as they approach adulthood.



Another reason behind the inheritance of lactose intolerance is evolutionary change. According to a study done by Reddy and Pershad, 50% of Indians in India appear to appear to be lactose intolerant. But on the contrary, Fijians have not had long contact with milk as an adult food so most of their population is lactose intolerant. This is due to natural selection which originates from Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory of evolution states that all species change over time through a process called natural selection. Natural selection is the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. According to Charles Darwin, species gradually multiply and evolve into new species and surviving organisms have traits adaptive to a specific environment and pass these characteristics on to the next generation. The intolerance to lactose is created through a malfunction of the gene that inhibits the sugar lactose to be broken down through the enzymes. In the case of Indo-Fijians, since they were from India with a Hindu background, they had close connection with cows (these domestic animals had spiritual and religious significance in the country) and other dairy products that stem from cow milk. Since tremendous poverty existed in India, the population had to adapt to drink dairy products in order to avoid starvation. Therefore when the Indian population moved to Fiji, they carried that adaptation with them as well as their major source of food: cows. Since the Indo-Fijians were very used to drinking milk as part of their culture, the malfunction of the gene that prevents the sugar lactose to be broken down through lactase became less evident because their body adapted into being able to produce lactase more effectively. As for the native Fijians, they did not have any cows in their country (and still don’t) which meant they did not have the need to adapt to being tolerant to milk. This explains the Native Fijians’ lack of lactase and thus, their very high percentage of lactose intolerance.






To conclude, during my stay in Fiji I am continually exposed to their fascinating traditions and their tasteful but different food compared to Canada. These cultural differences have encouraged me to appreciate the place I have enjoyed for the past three weeks. Additionally, the limited use of milk in the Fijian food has taught me quite a bit about lactose intolerance in Fiji.



July 26, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Mealybugs: A Major Threat to Fijian Farms

Today after lunch we embarked on a fascinating trip to Koronivia Research Station to learn about plants, agriculture and insects. Essentially the purpose of the trip was to learn about different methods of propagation of plants, meaning if they reproduce sexually or asexually and through which method (for instance, budding crafting.). However, when we got there we did not have the chance to learn about plant propagation but instead we were taught many interesting of uses fertilizers, the importance of pesticides, ways on helping the farmers through agricultural forensics, endangered insects and plants, invasive species and a variety of different scientific equipment. While at Koronivia Research Station, one of the experts on invasive species taught us plentiful information on several types of invasive species, one being the Mealybug.




As I mentioned earlier, the Mealybug is a species common in Fiji. That is harmful to other living organisms. The Mealybug represents a serious problem to many different plants and flowers found in greenhouses, fruit trees, shrubs and homes. These invasive bugs are also found on fruits and branches, and can cause considerable damage to host plants and crops. They nourish themselves by sucking out sap and what is interesting about these bugs is that their waste represents food for ants. One way Mealybugs invade plants is by transforming their green appearance to a black colour due to their excreted waste, which attract sooty mould fungus. Furthermore, this black mould fungus causes plants to become unhealthy, lose buds, leaves, fruits and flowers by preventing plant photosynthesis. One of the reasons Mealybugs are dangerous is because they are mobile meaning that they are easily spread. For example they can spread by dropping from overhead plants, and by moving infested plants. Mealygbugs mainly invade fruits and vegetables such as citrus, mangoes, guava, pumpkin, chillies, young coconuts; as well as plants and flowers including: roses, orchids, ferns and Ginger. Nevertheless, these invasive bugs can attack other plants when they adapt.

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Luckily, as the man in the insect and plant room explained, agriculturalists have discovered ways of controlling Mealybugs. Various predators such as the ladybird beetles (used as a biological control agent) and the green lacewings feed off Mealybugs and thus, protect plants, fruits and vegetables. Another alternative to kill Mealybugs is by using the following substances: alcohol, isopropyl, horticultural oil, insecticidal soaps and mineral oil.

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 After interacting with many different experts on agriculture, I learned a lot about how the Koronivia agricultural university helps farmers with their crops by informing them on how to use the most of their crops. Additionally, I gained insight on how invasive species such as the peculiar but dangerous bug known as the Mealybug, have a destructive impact on the ecosystem in Fiji.

July 13, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Prokaryotes in Fiji: Cyanobacteria

Fiji is surrounded by plentiful algal blooms. Among these algal blooms live multicellular organisms such as sharks, dolphins, star fish, plants, etc., but unicellular organisms such as cyanobacteria are also found among those algal blooms. These cyanobacteria are classified as one of many different types of prokaryotes.



Also known as blue-green algae because of their photosynthetic and aquatic properties, cyanobacteria are a major group of bacteria, found in algal blooms. Even though these bacteria are very tiny, they can sometimes be spotted by the human eye on algae because they grow in large colonies. What is impressive about cyanobacteria is that scientists have discovered that they are the oldest known fossils, being more than 3.5 billion years old. And what is even more surprising is that they are still alive today-in fact they are one of the largest and most important groups of bacteria on Earth, roaming the surfaces of algae found in the oceans. Today, cyanobacteria are very important in human society and in ecosystems. One of the ways they play an important role in human society is by providing nitrogen fertilizers used in the cultivation of beans and rice.


                Not only are cyanobacteria helpful for the human population, but they play a vital role in marine ecosystems. Since their existence (3.5 million years ago) cyanobacteria have been building coral reef ecosystems. Marine organisms such as fish, shark, octopus, etc. feed of cyanobacteria, which also provide nitrogen to the coral reef ecosystems through nitrogen fixation. Furthermore, cyanobacteria are important in calcification and decalcification.

Cyanobacteria are aquatic, photosynthetic cells, meaning that they use the sun’s light as well as the ocean’s water to produce energy/food for themselves. Accordingly, through a process called photosynthesis, cyanobacteria use water and carbon dioxide to produce sugar and oxygen. Essentially, photosynthesis occurs in the chlorophyll which is scattered in the cytoplasm of the cyanobacteria. This green pigment is made up of granum which contains coin-like stacks called thylakoids. These thylakoids collect sunlight from the sun and convert it to energy that the cyanobacterium can use. When there is no sunlight present, cyanobacteria use a process called cellular respiration by which they use sugar and oxygen to produce water, carbon dioxide and energy.


                All living things are composed of cells, either prokaryotic cells or prokaryotic cells. Eukaryotic cells are found in animals, plants, fungi and protists while prokaryotic cells are only found in Archaea and Bacteria. Because cyanobacteria are an example of the prokaryotic cell type, their cell structure is considerably different than that of eukaryotic cells. While most of their attributes differentiate, the two types of cells have several common characteristics: cell membrane, cytoplasm, DNA, energy currency, and enzymes and coenzymes. Other organelles that eukaryotic cells and cyanobacteria both contain are: vacuoles, vesicles and flagella. Lastly, prokaryotic cells have ribosomes but they are much smaller than those found in the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum in eukaryotic cells.



However, with the few similarities they share in common, the cell structure of cyanobacteria is considerably different than that of eukaryotic cells. The main difference between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells is that prokaryotic cells do not have membrane-bound organelles such as the nucleus. In fact, a prokaryotes Greek name: “pro-karyote” signifies before nucleus. On the other hand, “eu-karyote” is Greek for true nucleus, which explains the membrane-bound nucleus found in all eukaryotic cells. Also while eukaryotic cells have many distinct organelles, prokaryotic cells have only some distinguished organelles. Examples of organelles that eukaryotic cells have but prokaryotic cells don’t are: lysosomes, mitochondria, cytoskeleton, plasma membrane, nuclear membrane, Golgi apparatus and chloroplasts.  Another significant difference between the two cell types is that the prokaryotic cell’s DNA- also known as Deoxyribonucleic acid (genetic information) is shaped in the form of a circular loop called a plasmid rather than having a nucleus contained DNA that is organized into chromosomes like in a eukaryotic cell. Nevertheless, prokaryotic cells have one chromosome but it is not a true chromosome, it is a plasmid. Furthermore, the shapes of both types of cells are considerably different. A eukaryotic cell is 10-100 μm (micrometers) in size while a prokaryotic cell is significantly smaller, being 1-10 μm in size.

In conclusion, algal blooms are covered by interesting, aquatic and photosynthetic, unicellular organisms called cyanobacteria, which have evolved over the course of 3.5 billion years to become a very important part of marine ecosystems. Therefore, I hope that one day I will be able to see these fascinating prokaryotic cells in detail under the microscope.


July 11, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Plant Study: Kava Plant

This past Tuesday we were very fortunate to go experience a true hiking adventure in the Fijian rainforests on Ovalau Island. We were guided by a Fijian man named Epi who actually created the tour through the Fijian jungle that leads to his village which explains the tour’s name: Epi’s Tour. The tour started off with some small creek crossings but as we got higher and higher up the mountain, we began seeing amazing creatures including three different species of spiders, a snake, ants, and a unique species of grasshopper. Also, while at the peak of one of the jungles, we were lucky enough to see a Fijian man climb a coconut tree and knock all the juicy coconuts down so we can enjoy in their tasteful coconut milk. But what was mainly the purpose of this hike other than the sightseeing of exotic creatures was to learn about different medical plants and their helpful uses in medicine. After listening to Epi describe several different plants and their medical purposes, the plant that appealed most to me was the Kava plant.

epis-midland-tour                imagesCAOWPSK5

Kava also known as Piper methysticu, is a flowering plant-specifically a dicot, grown in the South Pacific. It has historically been grown in the following countries and regions: Pacific Islands of Hawaii, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Nowadays, the Kava plant is considered a cash crop in Fiji and Vanuatu.  Kava plant is a dicot because it has two cotyledons and the veins in its leaves branch off in opposite directions instead of remaining parallel to one another. Additionally, the reason Kava is classified as a dicot is because its stems are divided in two.

kava field


The taxonomic classification of the Kava plant is as follows:

Kingdom Plantae-Plants
Phylum Tracheobionta-Vascular   Plants
Class Magnoliophyta-Dicotyledons
Order Piperales
Family Piperaceae– Pepper   family
Genus Pipper L. -Pepper
Species Piper methysticum G. Forst. – Kava

The green shrub also known as Kava has several properties used for a many different ailments. Its roots have many medicinal purposes such as assisting in helping cure conditions ranging from asthma to fungal infections. The root’s main components can be used to relieve muscle cramps, anxiety and insomnia (lack of sleep). Furthermore, Kava’s roots have anti-inflammatory properties that are able to treat bladder infections and an irritable prostate. Additionally, psychological disorders such as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy and depression can be treated by the Kava plant. As well as being used for medical purposes, the Kava plant also represents a drink in some cultures.

The Kava plant’s anatomy is composed of three main parts: the stem, the leaves, the root and the inflorescence. As I mentioned earlier, its roots have many medicinal purposes such as helping cure conditions ranging from asthma to fungal infections. Because Kava is a dicot, its roots follow a taproot system pattern. This form of root system is deep with a long primary root and less important secondary roots branching off.  Its stems and leafs also contain ailments, however they are not used for medicinal purposes because they contain toxins to the liver. The Kava’s stem which resembles that of a bamboo is strong, thick, rough, hard and green coloured. Its stem vascular bundles are shaped in the form of a ring. To be specific there are two types of stems: aerial stems and the rhizomes, also known as the underground stems. The second part of the Kava plant, which is attached to the stem, consists of the leaves. The Kava grows large leaves that are dark green, net-veined and petiolated; growing to be 12 up to 20 cm long. The last part of the Kava plant is the inflorescence. The inflorescence is a very short flower spike that comes from the base of the leaf petioles.

                                                                                         Kava Leaf KavaAlbumPlant6

                                                                                         Kava Roots


Kava Stems


kava stems



The Kava plant belongs to the phylum of tracheophytes-also known as vascular plants meaning that its internal tissue consist of vascular tissue. The Kava’s vein is primarily made of tissue called xylem and phloem. Xylem carries water and minerals from the roots up to the leaves and phloem carries sugar from the leaves down to the roots.  It is essentially the Kava’s vascular tissue that allows the plant to grow relatively tall. Water is transported through the Kava plant by a process called transpiration. Transpiration is when water evaporates from the leaves or stems of a plant and more water moves up from the roots through the xylem to replace it.  In the Kava plant’s veins, the xylem is the water conducting tissue. As water enters the root hairs of the Kava plant, it is transported by the xylem u the stem and to the leaves. As water molecules evaporate, they make adjacent molecules evaporate, creating a transpiration pull. In other words, the pumping of water from the roots up to the leaves is driven by the evaporation of water molecules through small pores in the cuticle of the leaves called stomata. Then, when the water reaches the stem, the transpiration pull is strong enough to pull the water up to the leaves. Finally, when the water reaches the leaves, it used by a process called photosynthesis to produce sugar, oxygen, and dissolved carbohydrates. These dissolved carbohydrates are later transported back to the roots by a nutrient conducting tissue called phloem.


Since Kava is a tropical plant it requires warm temperatures; as well as sunny, and humid conditions to grow. The ideal temperature for Kava to flourish ranges from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius. The green shrub thrives in well-drained, loose soil-ensuring that plentiful air reaches the roots; under the jungle canopy, where partial sunlight is provided. Effectively, the loose soil ensures that the Kava plant’s roots remain healthy. Because it grows in rainforests, ideal precipitation for the Kava plant includes over 2,000 millimeters per year.

Unlike most flowers, Kava plant reproduces asexually through propagation. Since no sexual reproduction occurs in the Kava’s flower, it does not bear fruit, but still has two seeds, which explains why it’s a dicot. Instead, it multiplies through vegetative propagation  which is a process in which meristematic cells capable of cellular differentiation meaning that one plant is growing into a new plant from pieces of the original plant without seeds or spores. Instead of having two plants involved as parents, a single plant generates and disperses tissues that form new plants. This means that the new plants always are made from structures that already exist, and that they are genetically identical to the parent plant.

The Kava plant belongs to the Piperaceae, also known as the pepper family in which a variety of different species exist. The pepper family consist of 13 different generas, which branch off into nearly 7000 species. This group belongs to the major group of Angiosperms-flowering plants. Recognizing a plant in the Pepper family is quite the challenge because not only does it contain herbs, but the family also consist of shrubs, small trees and lianas. One of the main properties that all species in the Pepper family have is dense flower spikes. You can also distinguish species as pertaining to the Pepper family by looking at the plant’s leaf structure, which is defined by soft, simple shaped, fleshy and succulent leafs.

While Kava plants play a major role in the human world, their role in the ecosystem is not significant. There are absolutely no insects, animals and birds that feed of Kava. The only species that actually consume Kava are Homo Sapiens-humans.

Lucky for the Kava, it has no major threats or natural predators. The Kava plant contains several toxic contents, which explains why animals or other plants do not attack it. Furthermore, because Kava is found in unindustrialized regions such as in thick jungles, it has no threats.

To conclude, Tuesday was an exhilarating day outlined by an adventurous hike through the thick jungles of Ovalau. Before undertaking in Epi’s tour I did not believe that plants could be so useful in life. But the moment I exited the narrow, adventurous trails through the jungle, I discovered the potential about plants. Epi described to us a variety of plants and their potential in medicine (for instance, for cancer treatment, and healing of mosquito bites and cuts).What fascinated me the most was not the snakes, the spiders, the humongous grasshoppers and the wonderful views of the ocean from the top of the mountain, but the wide range of important properties of the plants Epi described to us, one being the Kava plant. Because of the knowledge I gained in that hike while discovering abundant creatures and plants lurking in the jungle, I learned to appreciate the enormous diversity on Earth as well as the skills of the Fijians.



July 11, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Comparitive Anatomy Between Spinner Dolphin and Dogfish Shark

Dogfish shark               Vs.4Spinner-Science_md_small

Today was another very exciting day as we got to explore the wonders of the Pacific Ocean for the first time here in Fiji. We were separated into three smaller groups with whom we drove off in three boats to the Moon Reef. This marvelous turquoise-coloured, moon-shaped reef is home to an abundant amount of Spinner Dolphins. Fortunately, the visibility was great as the water and sun were shining bright, and so we were all captivated by a wonderful display of Spinner Dolphins swimming in groups and performing exquisite tricks in the air, before diving back into the waters.

Spinner DOlphin tricks

Sharks and dolphins are truly intriguing and amazing creatures of the sea and ocean. Specifically two of those species are truly fascinating, the Spinner Dolphin and the Dogfish Shark. Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris) are relatively small dolphins that were named for their unique behavior of leaping and spinning. Dogfish Sharks (Squaliformes) are a species of sharks that travel in enormous groups around the ocean to hunt. Even though the Dogfish Shark and the Spinner Dolphin are significantly different species, their external structures resemble. This is because these two captivating species have evolved through a fascinating phenomenon called convergence. Accordingly, even though the Dogfish Shark sharks and Spinner Dolphin look very much alike from their exterior appearance (their body shape is highly streamlined: both have fins and a tail) they remain different in the fact that one is a mammal-the dolphin and one is a fish-the shark. The way convergent evolution works is that unrelated species that live in similar environments and have the same type of responsibilities in their ecosystems tend to accumulate adaptations that add up to make them resemble each other.


convergent evolution


The Dogfish Shark and the Spinner Dolphin have very similar gross anatomies. The Spinner Dolphin has a unique organ called the melon, which is located in front of the dolphin’s brain and above its teeth. The melon, which can be reasonably compared to a human’s forehead, plays a major role in helping the dolphin navigate and communicate throughout the ocean. The Spinner Dolphin’s melon transmits sound waves, helping it detect objects around its surroundings. This impressive form of navigation is called echolocation. On the other side, the Dogfish Shark is not so fortunate to have an extraordinary organ such as the melon, but instead it has a brain just like the Spinner Dolphin. However, the Dogfish Shark’s brain is not so ordinary as it has three smaller brains linked to each other: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain which are located in the shark’s head behind its rostrum. The Spinner Dolphin’s brain which resembles a circular shape is covered by a skull and is located right behind its eyes and slightly underneath its blowhole. What is impressive about the Spinner Dolphin’s brain is that it is particularly large, which explains the dolphin’s intelligence. Another vital organ of the Spinner Dolphin is the blowhole, which is located in the dolphin’s head, just above its skull. The dolphin’s blowhole is very important in providing respiration for the vertebrate because dolphins breathe through their blowhole. Contrary to a Spinner Dolphin, the Dogfish Shark does not have a blowhole but instead contains a set of organs with similar purposes as the blowhole, called gills. Sharks breathe underwater by using their gills. Both vertebrates also contain a set of fins which help the species perform unique feats. The Spinner Dolphin has three fins attached to its skin: the fluke, located at the back of their tail; a pair of pectoral flippers, situated at the sides of the dolphin’s body; and a dorsal fin, attached above the dolphin’s body. The dorsal fin is very important because it provides balance, restricting the dolphin from flipping over. The fluke helps the dolphin accomplish an awe-aspiring feat called breaching, which is when the dolphin jumps out of the water and makes a huge splash when it comes back down. And the pectoral flippers help the dolphin turn and change direction shape. Overall, the fins work together to propel the Spinner Dolphin through the water. Similarly, the Dogfish Shark has five fins (like all sharks): the pelvic fin located below the shark’s pelvis; the caudal fin, located near the end of the shark’s tail; the dorsal fin, situated at the top; the second dorsal fin-a smaller fin located further down the shark’s body; and the pectoral fin, which is attached to the shark’s bottom. The Dogfish Shark propels and steers its way through water with stabilization by using its body and tail in side-to-side movements.

fins comparison


Other vital organs that the Dogfish Shark and Spinner Dolphin have in common are: the heart, the liver, the pancreas, the stomach, the esophagus, the kidney, and the intestine. The Spinner Dolphin’s heart is located just behind its pectoral flippers while the Dogfish Shark’s heart is located just in front of its pectoral fin. Because the Spinner Dolphin’s a mammal, it has lungs (the shark
does not) which are situated right above the heart. In both species the liver is connected to the heart on one side, and the stomach on the other. The pancreas, which the Spinner Dolphin does not have, is located between the Dogfish Shark’s intestine and its liver. The Spinner Dolphin also has an intestine which connects its stomach and anus but the difference between the two species’ intestines is that the Dogfish Shark’s intestine is elongated while the Spinner Dolphin’s intestine is rolled up just like in humans. The last organ that the Spinner Dolphin and Dogfish Shark share in common is the kidney which is situated closer to the anus (for Dolphins) and cloaca (for sharks), above both species’ intestine.

shark anatomy



dolphin anatomy


Just like humans, the Dogfish Shark and the Spinner Dolphin both have major organ systems such as the skeletal system, the muscular, the digestive system, the excretory system, the respiratory system, and the circulatory system.  Because there are so many systems to compare between the two species of vertebrates I will only compare and contrast the respiratory system as well as the circulatory system because they are strongly related. Regardless of the shark and dolphin’s corresponding digestive organs, their respiratory systems rely on absolutely different organs and processes. In the shark, the circulatory and respiratory systems function together as the heart pumps deoxygenated blood to the gills where it is oxygenated, and distributed throughout the body. The Dogfish Shark’s gills are the primary site of gas exchange, but it also occurs in the shark’s skin. Because the water is dense and it has a limited supply of oxygen, the respiratory system of the Dogfish Shark must be adapted to properly function in these difficult circumstances. Because of the density of water and low supply of oxygen, the Dogfish Shark requires significant amounts of energy in order to survive. Consequently, the Dogfish Shark has evolved efficient structures to minimize energy consumption in respiration as much as possible. Instead of moving water in and out of its gills, the Dogfish Shark has evolved a mechanism to move water steadily in one direction. The arches of the Dogfish Shark’s gills are lined with capillaries. Gas exchange occurs in these capillaries; when water flows through the capillaries, oxygen is diffused from its high concentration in the water to its lower concentration in the blood. Through this process, carbon dioxide is removed from the blood. A constant supply of water to the gills is provided by a process called ram ventilation. In this process, as the Dogfish Shark swims forward water moves into the mouth and is removed through the gill slits.

sharkshark blood







Contrary to the Dogfish Shark, because the Spinner Dolphin is a mammal, it does not have gills like sharks and so it relies on its blowhole and lungs for breathing. Unlike other mammals who breathe through their nostrils and mouth, the Spinner Dolphin breathes through its blowhole, which is situated on the top on its head. A reason for this difference is that the blowhole makes breathing easier for the dolphin when it reaches the water’s surface. Since the blowhole is at the top of the head, the Spinner Dolphin’s required to peak only a small portion of its head above the water to inhale air. Then before returning back in the water, the Spinner Dolphin starts to exhale which this helps to reduce the amount of time spent breathing at the surface. The Spinner Dolphin’s lungs also play a vital role in keeping the dolphin alive. The dolphin’s lungs are made up of two layers of capillaries (instead of the normal one), significantly increasing the efficiency of gas exchange. However, even if the lungs are completely filled with air, the Spinner Dolphin’s incapable of sustaining long dives. Nevertheless, the main explanation behind this phenomenal feat is linked to adaptations made in the Spinner Dolphin’s circulatory system. The Spinner Dolphin primarily obtains its oxygen from the blood and muscles. The red blood cells, that transport oxygen throughout body tissues, are very abundant in dolphins compared to in other mammals. Furthermore, haemoglobin concentration in the red blood cell is higher too, thereby increasing the affinity of red blood cells with oxygen.

dolphin respdolphin respiration

dolphin respispinner dolphin resp

The Spinner Dolphin and the Dogfish Shark have the same tissues and for the most part, the same cells. Just like all animals and the human body the organs of the respiratory and circulatory system of the Spinner Dolphin and the Dogfish Shark are composed of four tissues: epithelial tissue, muscular tissue, nervous tissue, and connective tissue. As well as sharing the same tissues, the Spinner Dolphin and the Dogfish Shark have similarities in the type of cells that compose their bodies. Both species contain red blood cells (erythrocytes), responsible for the transportation of oxygen and white blood cells (leukocytes), responsible for immune functions.

In conclusion, the Spinner Dolphin and the Dogfish Shark are two fascinating marine animals who have evolved similar body traits while remaining different species. Additionally, by comparing the anatomy of the shark and dolphin, I figured out that their digestive organs are very similar, but their circulatory and respiratory organs, as well as functions vary greatly.

moon reef











July 11, 2013
by slaughterhouse97

Monocot vs. Dicot

Today was for most I would say one of the most amusing days so far here in Fiji because we had the chance to finally leave the USP Campus and explore the Fijian culture in the inner city of Suva. It was a real cultural experience to ride on the public transport to the inner city of Suva where we were dropped off at the waterfront and walked several blocks to arrive to the Fiji Museum. Before entering the Fiji Museum, we toured a large botanical garden otherwise known as the Thurston Gardens, and had the chance to observe and take pictures of some very intriguing flowers and plants. Personally I found some flowers very interesting but the two that stood out to me the most were the White Tendril and a purple flower that I was not able to find the name of. Since there were no labels under the flowers and plants at Thurston Gardens, it was quite the challenge to find the name as well as the scientific name for the flowers I took pictures of but after some browsing I finally found the scientific name of only one of those flowers: the White Tendril (Hymenocallis littoralis). The two flowers I observed were flowering plants, also known as angiosperms.  

Monocot White Tendril

                The first flower I spotted in the Thurston Gardens was a monocot: the White Tendril. After identifying six petals on the white tendril, I concluded that the flower was a monocot, because monocots have petals in multiples of three. The second reason I linked the white tendril to a monocot was because of its leaf structure. The white tendril’s leafs were very long and narrow, with their veins going up and down in straight lines (the leaves were parallel-veined).

It was difficult to identify the white tendril’s seed structure, root structure, and stem structure but due to what I learned by doing the graphic organizer I managed to link those specific characteristics to a monocot. A monocot’s seed structure is defined by only one cotyledon and so the white tendril certainly had one cotyledon giving it the characterization of a monocot. Additionally, being a monocot, the white tendril had fibrous roots that are short and stringy, and did not include a primary root which are existent in dicots. Furthermore, by observing the white tendril’s stem structure, I was able to even further affirm that the flower was a monocot. Lastly, the unbranched and fleshy stems, as well as scattered vascular bundles, further indicated that the white tendril was a monocot.

Dicot Purple Flower

              While at the botanical garden, we also had the chance to see a dicot. The purple flower I took a picture visibly showed evidence of a dicot because its petals were in multiples of five. Furthermore, I was able to distinguish the purple flower as being dicot by looking at its stem structure and its leaf structure. Because the leaves were not long and narrow like in monocots, but instead were shaped in a triangularly curved form, I was able to identify the plant as being a dicot. The leaf was also net-veined, meaning that there was a main central vein with smaller veins branching away from the centre line, which meant that the purple flower was a dicot. The structure of the flower’s stem also helped me identify it as a dicot. Instead of having an unbranched stem such as in a monocot, I observed a rough and branched stem in the flower which meant it was a dicot. Additionally, I observed the stem vascular bundles being arranged in the shape of a ring, which only occurs in the stems of dicots.

Although many of the physical characteristics were visible, the purple flower also had other features that connected it to a dicot but could not be seen. For instance, contrary to a monocot the purple flower had two cotyledons in its seed. In terms of root structure, the purple flower had a taproot system (a long primary root with secondary roots branching off) which is unique to dicots.

In conclusion, the visit to Thurston Gardens was a very enjoyable but also purposeful visit to learn about the classification of plant and flower species in two different categories: monocots vs. dicots.


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