Blog #2: “The Triumph of Seeds”

Hanson, T. (2015). The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. New York, NY: Basic Books. Pg. XIX-18, 55-80

Through his novel, The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History, Thor Hanson has caught the attention of many. Hanson examines what we know about the complicated transition from a world dominated by spore-bearing plants, such as the long distant ancestors of horsetails and mosses to the mass diversity of flowering plants that we see today. In the chapters that I covered within this novel Hanson describes how much of game changer the transition to seed plants has been not only for the productive and diversification of plant species on Earth, but for the abundant nourishment seeds provide pretty well all members of the animal kingdom. Moreover, its impossible to imagine living a day without food made from seed plants, such as wheat, rice, corn etc., or farm animals that are raised on feed from seed plants. As Hanson would ask, “what did you eat for breakfast?

Are the Almendro trees of Central America the living dead?, as Hanson questioned on pg. 7 as he studied the range of Almendro trees from Colombia to Nicaragua while avoiding poisonous strikes from the snake filled forest floor. Hanson was questioning whether the Almendro tree are capable of reproducing successfully as human expansion threatens more and more wild lands through the development of range and agricultural land. At this point a thought crossed my mind; although humans have literally played god by selective breeding and now genetically modifying plant species, is the world moving to a point where “natural” evolution of plants could come to a halt? With the rapidly expanding human population and technological advances in agricultural systems, we now have total control over the genetic variation (or lack there of) being passed from generation to generation of crop plants worldwide.

Hanson examines some critical discoveries that has lead us to a better understanding of how spore-bearing plants may have developed into seed and fruit producing plants. Evolutionary advances that are thought to have lead to the development of seed plants include the ability to separate the sexes of spores and the investment in female spores which could give rise to a new plant (P.66). I enjoyed Hanson’s comparison of gymnosperms evolution to wrap their seeds in a vessel as an parental response to him wrapping his son with a towel following a bath to keep him safe and warm (P.67).

“When something is known, its hard to imagine it as a mystery” is a brilliant quote found in chapter 5: Mendel’s Spores. In this chapter Hanson tells the reader a brief summary of Mendel’s story; Hanson makes you feel sad for the lack of credibility Mendel’s research on the heredity received. It truly is hard to imagine how something that seems to be common knowledge now, such as dominant and recessive genes was so easily misunderstood.


Thanks for you time – Cheers!

Jenna May Kavanagh





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