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August 2010, Week 4

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Sun, 22 Aug 2010 23:32:11 -0400
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'Immortal' Trees Can't Escape Aging
By Brandon Keim
Wired Science
August 17, 2010
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/08/aspen-immortality/#more-26937

[moderator: to read the entire article
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/08/aspen-immortality/#more-26937]

Because some quaking aspen trees can reproduce by
copying themselves, some people have wondered whether
they might live forever, at least theoretically. But
even if that's possible, they're still not immune from
the ravages of time.

As aspen clones grow older, a slow buildup of genetic
mutations impairs their pollen production. After a few
tens of thousands of years, they won't produce any
pollen at all.

When that happens, trees will still be able to sprout
clones from their root tips, but they won't be able to
make seeds. They'll be stuck in place, vulnerable to
disease or disaster.

...

"You're at risk of going extinct if you lose your sexual
fitness, because you have no other way of dispersing
into a different environment," said Ally. "Once you get
to the point of no return, where your sexual function is
no longer capable of operating, then how do you persist
in a changing environment?"

[moderator: to read the entire article
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/08/aspen-immortality/#more-26937]

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