Did you know that lotus can regulate its own temperature, just like a warm-blooded animal?
An international team led by the University of Illinois, USA and including the University of Adelaide in South Australia, Iwate University in Japan, and University of Wollongong in NSW has sequenced and described the lotus genome, and investigated the physiology and heat generating properties of the lotus, publishing its finding in Genome Biology.
Associate Professor Jenny Watling at University of Adelaide says “The sacred lotus has huge cultural, religious, economic and medicinal importance and many unusual traits. It also has great scientific significance. Our work focuses on its incredible ability to generate heat so that it can keep a constant temperature of around 32-34 degrees over a 2-3 day period, while the environmental temperature varies by up to 30 degrees – behaving like a warm-blooded animal.”
The lotus-generated heat and associated aromas are particularly attractive to pollinating insects. Associate Professor Watling adds: “We’ve found the biochemical pathway the lotus uses for this heat regulation. The plant can switch this pathway on or off, depending on whether it needs more or less heat. We’ve discovered that this pathway depends on a single protein and we now have information about the genes that code for that protein, adding to our knowledge about the mechanisms of lotus thermo-regulation. Other flowering plants also have this metabolic pathway, but few use it to the same amazing extent as the lotus.
Lotus has other remarkable characteristics, including a seed viability of over 1000 years, water repellency and self-cleaning leaf surfaces. The ‘lotus effect’ is being adapted for industrial uses.