Plant Sex is Slower in Space

Perrin Ireland, writing for Visual Science:

A new study on plant reproduction finds that developing cells are very affected by altered states of gravity—a finding that has implications for our hopes for a future human society in space.


What they found is that plants in microgravity grew smaller pollen tubes: their diameters were 8 percent smaller than those grown at Earth gravity. At five times Earth’s gravity, the tubes were 8 percent wider, and at 20 times Earth’s gravity, they were 38 percent wider.

This is because the assembly of cell walls was disrupted in microgravity, leading to a reduced growth rate. As a result, the germination rates were much lower in the lesser-gravity states, the researchers reported in PLoS ONE.

Plants aren’t alone, either. Brian Switek says scientists are pondering how dinosaurs had sex, in part because of the massive weight some species had to bear.