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Orchid gives up the secrets of its success

Orchid gives up the secrets of its success

Science
The orchid is known for its beauty and once changed hands for vast sums.Now, scientists are gaining an insight into how the plant prized for its beauty colonised almost every habitat on Earth.A team in China has unpicked the genetic blueprint of an orchid that grows wild in the mountains of southeast China.The orchid in question, from the subfamily, Apostasiodea, split off from modern species millions of years ago.Researchers led by the Orchid Conservation and Research Centre of Shenzhen sequenced the genome of the orchid and compared it with more modern species.The data, published in the journal, Nature, "provides a reference for studying orchid evolution" and suggests distinctive features found only in orchids played a key role "in the tremendous radiation of the group", they say.The orc...
Freeze-dried dung gives clue to Asian elephant stress

Freeze-dried dung gives clue to Asian elephant stress

Science
"Collecting fresh faecal samples is not as easy as it may sound," says researcher Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel.But her efforts have helped scientists in India devise a unique, non-invasive way to monitor the physiological health of wild elephants.The key has been freeze-drying dung in the field to preserve the elephant's hormones.As a result, scientists found stress levels in females were more conspicuous than in male elephants.Over five years, Sanjeeta and her colleagues collected more than 300 samples from 261 elephants in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats area.She explained her technique: "I used to hide and observe till the elephant defecated and moved away."She told the BBC: "These samples mean a lot to me." Ethical approachThe aim of the research was to evaluate the influence of the el...