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VOTE for a species to be sequenced for the first time ever!
Too many to count!
3.6 picograms - that's bigger than the human genome!
A simple single-celled eukaryotic (cell with organelles) organism, like an amoeba. Alive around 1.35 billion years ago
I should be sequenced because...: I have many adaptations and can survive in very harsh environments. My genes can be used to make food crops more hardy to feed the world.
Tell us more...:
Although Scotland is my homeland you can find me growing all over the world. I am so tough that I can live in very different climates and still thrive. I have spread across many different countries and made them my home which means some people think I am an invasive pest. I don’t think that’s very fair! I am just doing a good job of surviving.
My ability to thrive comes from my genes. If scientists sequence my genome they can identify which genes and combinations of genes make me so tough. Then they can genetically modify other plants so that they will have my strength too! Some people are frightened by genetically modified food but imagine a world where crops are not destroyed by drought and frost. There would be more food for everyone to share and people living in harsh climates would not have to fear going hungry. That sounds like a good thing to me!
Recently it has also been found that fluids extracted from the thistle can fight cancer cells – it is not fully understood how it does this yet. It is therefore important we learn more about this as it has the potential to help humans with tumours as well as immune illnesses.
This is me looking glorious. Look at The crazy spikes on my stem that protect me from animals that might want to eat me.
This is a close up of my beautiful flower hear…but be careful, its spiky too!
This is me supporting the Common Wealth Games in Scotland in 2014.
One sentence about me...: I am the majestic scotch thistle (or cotton thistle), the emblem of Scotland with vicious spikes and a beautiful flower.
My latin name Onopordum acanthium comes from the ancient Greek:
Onos – meaning donkey or ass
Pordum – meaning fart
and Acanos – meaning thistle (in Latin).
This is because people think that donkeys fart more if they eat me. The artichoke is one of my close cousins and apparently has this same effect on humans!
Why did Scotland choose me to be it’s national emblem? Well, the legend is that a long time ago some Vikings were trying to creep up on some Scottish clansmen and, to make sure that the Scotsmen didn’t hear them coming, they removed their shoes. One of the Vikings trod on a thistle and let out a shout of pain. The Scotsmen heard the shout and were able to prepare for battle. They were saved by a thistle.
I might be able to help cure cancer! Scientists have found that by mashing up my leaves they can extract compounds that can kill cancer cells.
Another cool fact about me is that I have a ‘secret’ society named after me:
The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle
Noble knights and ladies can be asked by the Queen to join the society if she thinks they are worthy. The motto of the society is…
“Nemo me impune lacessit”
That means ‘no one attacks me within impunity’ – basically I’ll fight back!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Tough, spikey, bonnie.
What's it like where you live?
My homeland is Scotland where i is a bit cold and wet most of the year. However you can find me all over the world in hot, dry, snowy and swampy areas. I particularly like a field covered in cow poo but I’m not fussy!
What's your favourite food?
Sunlight, with a generous side portion of nutrients from the soil and a glass of water – simple and delicious.
What's your family life like?
I normally grow in a big patch with my family nearby. However my seeds can be carried far by the wind so some of my children will end up growing far away from me. I can have many hundreds of children which I can produce myself or with another thistle and the help of a friendly bee!
Are you endangered or threatened by anything?
I am a very tough plant so not much threatens me…except a scary human with a chemical spray!
What's the best thing about you/interesting fact?
I am the oldest recorded 'National Flower' dating back to the 13th Centruy, when I casually helped the Scotland defend itself against the Vikings.
The champion of this species is...
Team thistle! An ecologist: Miranda, a physicist: Tom and a mathematician: Amy with a shared love of thistles.