Understanding Biodiversity
Understanding Biodiversity

Understanding Biodiversity

Biology is the study of life, and what could be more important than that? When scientists study the variety of that life – called biodiversity – they can use tools from ecology, evolution, conservation, genetics, and even the management of our natural resources. They find and describe new species, explore uncharted ecosystems, study how and why species change, investigate patterns in where and when species live, and study processes that make it possible for an ecosystem to survive or thrive. This section of Frontiers for Young Minds will include articles that describe, explore, and explain biological diversity on Earth – past, present, and future. From paleontology to botany to zoology (all animals big and small, from elephants to microbes), articles will address how living things adapt, change, and use or influence each other. Understanding Biodiversity wants to provide an opportunity for the next generation to understand the processes that have helped create this biological diversity, so that they are prepared to protect and sustain a biodiverse planet into the future.

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New Discovery

“Where Did My Friends Go?”: How Corn’s Microbe Partners Have Changed Over Time

Many of the foods we eat today look very different than they did in the past. Corn, or maize, didn’t exist ten thousand years ago: it descended from a weedy grass with tiny hard-shelled seeds that we wouldn’t recognize as corn kernels. That wild ancestor of corn, teosinte, grew in mixtures of many other plants instead of in cornfields like today. Big changes between teosinte and corn that we can see aboveground lead us to think that there have been changes belowground, too. Plants form partnerships with bacteria and fungi to get nutrients that they need to grow. Scientists are finding that microbes near the roots of teosinte are different than microbes that live around corn roots. Understanding how corn’s microbe partners have changed can help us make corn varieties that are better for the environment.


Jennifer E. Schmidt / Amélie C. M. Gaudin
Reviewed by Wish Bilingual School
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Core Concept

Don’t Judge a Plant by Its Flowers

You may have noticed the diversity of plants in your own backyard or neighborhood and you may even have heard of the concept of evolution. But have you ever wondered what forces have contributed to creating the biodiversity of plants with different shapes and colors all over the world? Or how scientists hope to understand and explain how this biodiversity came to be over millions of years? Using a mysterious case of look-alike flowers living on opposite sides of an ocean, we will discuss the way researchers piece together evolutionary histories by using plant DNA and the knowledge of what plants look like today. Let’s build a scientific time machine and solve the mystery!


Riva Anne Bruenn / Valerie Lavenburg / Shayla Salzman
Reviewed by Krishna
Reviewed by Darius
Reviewed by Wyatt
Reviewed by Schuyler
Reviewed by Sybille
Reviewed by Paceyn
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