After a decade of work, a biologist has shown that a horizontal offshoot of the thale cress plant is a body part all its own: the cantil.
The machinery of life is dazzlingly complex. To try to make sense of it, researchers have spent decades focusing on so-called model organisms: creatures that are easy to study in the lab and share key features with many other forms of life. This model group includes the lab mouse, the fruit fly, and an unassuming weed called thale cress, or Arabidopsis thaliana.
Model organisms are among the best understood lifeforms in the world. So imagine scientists’ surprise when, after a decade of work, a dogged plant biologist found a brand-new organ on thale cress, hiding in plain sight.
The newfound organ, described today in the journal Development, is a horizontal arm that juts off the main stem of Arabidopsis and acts as a support for the pedicel, the small stalk that leads to the base of a flower. Extending from the main stem of the plant, the part is reminiscent of the structural support known as a cantilever, leading researchers to name the organs “cantils.”
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