Watson, Lyall - Bent grass Agrostis tenuis in parts of Wales
Type of Spiritual Experience
We have here an example of how evolution has been triggered by the presence of a toxic substance, in effect the idea of random mutation simply does not work here. Two hundred years is not enough time to get a random mutation. A ‘gene’ has been created or at least turned on as a result of some environmental factor. It looks more likely given the unusual circumstances that the gene has been created to handle the toxins. Evolution is not in this case by natural selection, but by natural design. The grass software has been reprogrammed to be able to cope with toxins in the soil.
Furthermore, the software controlling the flowering of each variant of the species has been adapted so that the tolerant grass pollinates only with tolerant grass meaning the trait is preserved. Again the software controlling flowering has been reprogrammed.
A description of the experience
Lyall Watson – Heaven’s Breath
Those of us who grow up in cities develop some tolerance to prevailing poisons, …. But it is worth looking at the recent history of bent grass Agrostis tenuis in parts of Wales. Mining for heavy metals reached its peak there as early as 1780, which means that some older sites have been covered with toxic spoils for over two centuries. Concentrated copper and zinc are lethal to plants and until quite recently these waste dumps were barren, but some have been covered once again by a thin growth of spiky grass. This is still Agrostis tenuis but unlike other populations of bent grass nearby, these stands have become metal tolerant. Evolution has taken place along a very narrow front, separating individual grass plants that in some cases grow just a metre apart.
The copper mine at Drws-y-Coed is a small one, in a steep sided valley which runs from west to east. Grass is wind pollinated and the prevailing wind blows up the valley from the west. Genes flow with it, bringing non tolerance into the mine area, and carrying genes for copper tolerance out and up the valley. Tolerant grass disappears just one metre west of the mine dump, but grows in normal soil as much as 180 metres down wind to the east, where its newfound copper resistance is wasted.
Natural selection dislikes wastage of this kind, which reduces the reproductive fitness of a population and has in an astonishingly short time .. come up with a solution. Bent grass growing in the mine area now flowers eight days earlier than grass in non contaminated pastures nearby. Which means the copper tolerant plants cross only with each other ensuring the concentration, selection and survival of the trait.