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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/538

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534
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

distinguishing up from down. So that if it were an apogeotropic plant it would need to develop the instinct of relatively accelerated growth on the side D, on which the pressure is greatest.

What is here roughly sketched is the groundwork of the theory of graviperception suggested by Pfeffer and supported by Czapek, which I shall speak of as the radial pressure theory, and to which I shall return later.

It is obvious that there is another consideration to be taken into account, namely, that cells do not contain cell-sap only, but various bodies—nucleus, chloroplasts, crystals, etc.—and that these bodies, differing in specific gravity from the cell-sap, will exert pressure on the physically lower or physically higher cell-walls according as they are heavier or lighter than the cell-sap. Here we have the possibility of a sense-organ for verticality. As long as the stem is vertical and the apex upwards the heavy bodies rest on the basal wall, and the plant is not stimulated to curvature; but if placed horizontally, so that the heavy bodies rest on the lateral cell-walls, which are now horizontal, the plant is stimulated to curve. This is known as the statolith theory. It seems to me quite certain that the stimulus must originate either in the weight of solid particles or in the weight of the fluid in the cells, or by both these means together. And for this reason. Take the statolith theory first. There undoubtedly are heavy bodies in cells; for instance, certain loose, movable starch-grains. Now, either these starch-grains are specialized to serve the purpose of graviperception or they are not. If they are so specialized, cadit quæstio; if they are not, there still remains this interesting point of view; the starch-grains fall to the lower end of the cells in which they occur; therefore, shortly before every geotropic curvature which has taken place since movable starch-grains came into existence, there has been a striking change in the position of these heavy cell contents. Now, if we think of the evolution of geotropism as an adaptive manner of growth we must conceive plants growing vertically upwards and succeeding in life, others not so behaving, and consequently failing. There will be a severe struggle tending to pick out those plants which associated certain curvatures with certain preceding changes, and therefore it seems to me that, if movable starch-grains were originally in no way specialized as part of the machinery of graviperception, they would necessarily become an integral part of that machinery, since the act of geotropism would become adherent to or associated with the falling of the starchgrains.

This argument must in fairness be applied to any other physical conditions which constantly precede geotropic curvature; it is, therefore, not an argument in favor of the statolith theory alone, but equally