Expeditionary groups have been formed to undertake an initial survey of "plant" life on Nearer and Farther. Their goal is to try and determine the number of different kinds of plant life on each planet without prior presumptions that categories of plant life on Nearer and Farther are necessarily similar to those on Earth.
You are a member of one such expeditionary group. Your group must return with a scheme for categorizing plant life on the planet assigned that is clearly described and yields a definite quantitative result for numbers of kinds of plants on that planet. You may also want to consider why the planet contains the particular number of different plants you describe. Your findings will be presented at a conference on "Diversity in BioSystems: New Findings From Additional Cases", focused on the question of whether "diversity" is or is not a fundamental characteristic of living systems.
Some related readings:
Follow-up investigations should be undertaken with the same general objectives as the initial exploration but with the following additional recommendations in mind:
Relevant information about plant life on earth:
*We have addressed issues that came up in the first presentation of this system of categorization. The first element of the system that we tried to clarify was the size boundaries for each category. We have also considered possible alternative energy sources other than the seemingly dominant one. This is a seemingly simplified system of organization given that we have not been able to examine the internal features of each species.
Category 1: Immediate proximity to a surface, whether the ground or surface of another organism - a negligable distance from the ground - under 1/2 inch
A. spongey ground covering that spreads out moreso than growing up
B. plants that seem to derive energy from plants in Category 4
Category 2: Low proximity to the ground - from 1 inch to 1 foot.
A. single blade
B. leaf-like structure
1. singular leafed
Category 3: Medium proximity to ground - from 1 foot 1 inch, to 6 feet
A. eliptical shaped needle-like leaf
B. spiked leaf
C. oval, smooth, waxy leaf
Category 4: High proximity - 10 feet and above
A. rigid base with horizontal branching
B. smooth, flakey base with vertical branching
* diverge at ground level
* diverge from trunk
B. No Leaves
a. dark green
b. light green
II. Not Green
This expeditionary team followed-up on the research of the previous expeditionary force on planet Nearer. This group improved on the categorization methods by creating a hierarchy of differences among forms of plant life, whereas the previous group categorized plant life broadly according to similarity of features, without any linkage between categories.
The categories of the previous group did not relate the different types of plant life to one another. This group's categories, by contrast, are a coherent map of all plants on planet Nearer.
1 Not Green (Brown)
2 Fleshy mold (1)
2' Hard mold
3 Algae: Lichen
3' Not Algae
4 No true leaves/small
4' True leaves/big
5' not highly divided
6 no fruit/prolific wood
**6.5 Clearly defined trunk (2)
**6.5' random assembly of branches (7)
7 parallel veins in leaves
7' floral veins (1)
- Found system of organization to be extremely helpful.
- Last week, without any prior knowledge, each group began by focusing on size of flora and fauna. However, we learned that size was problematic because a younger version of the same species may be mistaken for an entirely separate species due to observation. We felt an additional step was necessary, in order that, by default, size was incorporated into the schema. We eliminated the possibility of error based on age by focusing on the structure of the flora and fauna as opposed to the size alone.
- This classification is more efficient because it groups flora and fauna together on broader terms.
Based on observations made by the eyenad other senses, on Planet Farther, plants can be classified by size:
Big (taller than 5 ft)
Medium (above ankle but below waistline)
Small (below ankle).
By color: Green or Not Green
By function (whether they produce flowers, leaves, fruits or not).
By the shape and texture: description of the leaf-like structure, if it is present, (direction where the veins go (vertical and parallel, or horizontal/diagonal), smooth or rough), or sensory perception of the organism itself.
By location (where they grow- on the ground, on another organism, in the light, in the shade)
By characteristics of the stem: for example: brown and hard, none, green and frail.
What we found:
A mushroom-like thing: small, fleshy, easy to break, feathery, no fruits, leaves or flowers, brown (not green) , grows in the shade, frail, brown stem.
Big plant one: no fruits, no flowers, 5 pointed leaf-life structure, with diagonal veins, green that grow in the sunlight, has a stem like structure connected to the ground that is brown, rough, and sturdy). It sheds, and when it does, some of the leaves in the ground become discolored.
-An independent organism grows from the stem of big plant 1. It is whitish green and rough, very, very small without flowers or fruits. We put it in an independent category, although it is connected to Big plant 1.
Big plant two: produces fruits - a cluster of samll green, hard berries, no flowers, long, pointy, green leaf with diagonal veins, grows in the sunlight, thick, brown, rough stem (different in texture than Big plant one).
Grassy-like plant: small, green, does not produce fruits or flowers, grows in sunlight and moderate shade, parallel fibers growing from north to south.
Medium-flowery-green plant: grows in molch-like shady territory, produces flowers, long, smooth, green leaf that is lighter on the back than on the front, which is waxy and shiny, veins grow diagonally, small sturdy branches that interlock.
Medium cabbage-like plant: grows in the territory as the previous one, highly textured, dark brown leaf, did not have a visible stem, fragile.
White flower-like plant: puffy, white, long, thin, green stem with smaller ones that open up to flower, no leaves, looks like earth's cottonballs, grows in the sunlight, no leave-like structures.
Critique of Baseline Report:
-Insufficient number of samples had been taken by the previous group. This resulted in incomplete and therefore highly inaccurate results.
-The sample size used by the previous group in their classification scheme wasn't diverse or large enough. ( For example, the sample they used did not include a sample of fungus, though it was present in the area.)
-The previous group's classification scheme underestimated the number of species due to small sample size, as was illustrated by the omission of fungus in the previous report
-The previous group's use of size as a method of classification proved problematic. A difference in size could simply indicate an organism at a different stage of development as opposed to different species, ex: fully mature maple tree and sapling
-The previous group's use of size as a method of classification resulted in an overestimation of the number of species.
Critique of Earth Plant Classification Scheme:
- The classification scheme did not account for free-standing, un-rooted specimens which on Earth would be assumed dead, but are not necessarily the case on Farther.
Problems in both schemes:
-not detailed enough, insufficient categories (didn't differentiate between vein patterns in leaves)
-location of organisms: it is unclear why organisms grow in certain locations... further investigation could reveal another set of categorizations based on similar observations
New Categorization Scheme:
- Made observations on additional and different samples, more diverse selection of specimens in order to obtain more accurate results.
- Size no longer used as the primary means of differentiating between organisms and therefore not as likely to mistake organisms at different stages of development as different species
Green vs. not green: Free-standing elements, divided by color, shape, texture.
Lichens: expand category to include color, texture, location
Leaves: location (ground/trees), clusters, rooted, shape (jagged/rounded edges), texture (fuzzy, smooth), veins (more categories: not all were strictly parallel or branching)
We classified the plants by Leaves
I. No Leaves
-flat/thin (looked like cracked paint) (1)
-Parallel Veins (2)
---one main wooden trunch (2)
---multiple trunks (2)
---------leaves in multiples of 3 (3)
---------leaves in multiples of 4 and 5 (1)
---------only one leaf (3)
---------more than five leaves (2)
# of species = 21
Having looked at previous analyses of plant life on planet far, we found the systems of categorization to be insufficient. Specifically, we were troubled by the use of categories that occured along a gradient, and therefore had no distinct divisions amongst them. Our new system utilizes categories that are drawn from far less arbitrary distinctions.
The past categories were based on qualitative definitions of color, shape, texture, and size. We reformed each as follows:
- color: green or not green
- shape: monochot or dichot
the basis for the categorization is the structure. we noticed that plants which appeared to have parallel veins generally took on one group of leaf shapes (long and thin), whereas plants which had many branching veins had different groups of leaf shapes (not long and thin). plants that had many divided leaves, constituting one big leaf formed another category.
- texture: hard and woody or soft and fleshy
- size, or height: plants that cling to surfaces get a different categorization from ones that appear to rise out of the ground
In this new exploration of Planet Far we came to realize that the previous report needed major revision as it did not nearly approximate the intricacies and details of the plant life we were observing. The already mentioned report had 3 major classification, one of which was "free-floating." Including Rock type objects as well as wood chips adn dead leaves. We decided that this category did not fit into any of the descriptions given to us by Prof. Franklin, so left in untampered, leaving room for possible, further "discovery?" as it didn't fit with any of the categories in the given scheme.
For the remaining categories we did the following:
Tree like structures were reclassified into 2 groups:
1. green, woody, dichots (2 varieties)
a. fruit producing (3)
b. flat leaves (2)
Small plants like:
1. green dichot, flowering (13)
2. GREEN, dichot (12)
3. Green, monochot, flowering (1)
4. Grass like: Green, monochot (6)
With this we concluded that the categories from the previous exploration had to be reorganized into more detailed sub types, as we were blessed with more information.
To further classify the lant and fungus life on planet Nearer, we used the basic classifications of plant life cited in Will Franklin's Plant and Fungi Key for the Biology Courtyard. We were able to categorize 29 species of Plant and Fungi life.
1) It was difficult to differentiate between one sample of tree bark and an organism of the class Ascomycota as covering one of the trees was a brown to black hard globular substance which could have been either.
2) There was also an unidentified large brownish-gray object with bryophyte growths which could have been stone or a type of Fungi; we could not tell.
3) Some items were of the same shape but different colors; i.e. we did not include instances of brown leaves where green leaves of the same shape were already present in our classification.
4) Our reasons for utilizing this system of classification for plants and fungi on planet Nearer were as follows:
-We found few exceptions to the rules of this classification
-It provides a useful vocabulary that we might have a starting point for discourse on the life of Planet Nearer.
-It eliminated the problem of size in classifying different species as experienced by previous teams of explorers.
-Just as this system is founded on earth to be a useful differentiation between the life cycles of different species, we believe that a similar premise holds true on the planet Nearer.
All members of the group agreed that the Base Report prepared by Group Near 2, which was done according to specimen size, was an adequate preliminary observation of specimen characteristics. However, holes existed in the report, because the size categorizations were rather vague. Just because something is a particular size, for example, doesn't mean it can't be associated with things of other sizes.
By referencing the detailed work done in the base report, and utilizing Will's classifications this exploratory group deems it possible to begin getting these categorizations "less wrong". However, limitations will still exist due to the fact that it is not possible at this time for us to discern some of the classifications Will describes. Further funding would allow the purchase of more advance technology, which would in turn allow us to continue the process of getting it "less wrong". Lastly, the following list has been reclassified after reviewing the base report in conjunction with Will's classifications. It should be noted that Will's report prompted this exploratory group to include several species which had not been classified as "living" in the preliminary report.
We believe at this time that three of the four initial ground growth species are lichen. These growths appeared light green and stringy, which fits with Will's categorization of the lichen family. The last specimen in this group appeard a very deep hue of green and "clingy" which would correlate with the Bryophyta classification.
The team has concluded that speicmens 5 and 8 are dicots because of the appearance of five leaf structures on the specimens.
This group believes that speicmens 6,7, and 9 are monocots because they came in clusters of three and have a branching vein structure.
We conclude that Specimens 10 and 11 are monocots because of the visible parallel vein structure (and the fact that these are grasses, and Will's classification clearly lists "grasses" as monocots.
This category of specimens is still uncertain, but it is believed that all of these specimens can be categorized as dicots.
These species are most likely anthopytha because they were flowering bushes, and this was the best classification within our means.
Specimens 21 and 22
21 and 22 are coniferophyta because of the appearance of prolific wood.
These were not noted in the base report, but it appears that there is the appearance of both ascomycota and basidilmycota, which would bring the specimen total up to 24 from the initial 22.
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