Though It May Taste Divine, Coffee DNA Tells a Darwinian Tale
Plant scientists have discovered some interesting facts about the coffee plant, and about how other plants use caffeine as a survival mechanism.
Good for us humans. Good for the plants. Good for BEES!
Sometimes creationists claim that a series of genetic mistakes can’t add up to make plants or animals more complex, or in any way improve them. This is wrong, and the coffee genome shows exactly how evolution can make a plant more complex and, to human tastes, improve it.
Flowering plants appeared around 160 million years ago. Once they arose, said Albert, they quickly spread and divided into an array of forms fantastically diverse in their chemistry and appearances.
What the DNA reveals, is that early in the history of plants, the entire complement of DNA - the genome - doubled. That is, instead of making a typo, some plant simply got two copies of everything. “With all these duplications you have an opportunity for the duplicates to take on new functions and make progeny that are more adaptive,” he said. It’s like getting new blank canvasses upon which evolution can start innovating.
It turns out that the double DNA sped up the synthesis of caffeine, which turns out to be a useful survival mechanism for the coffee plant, the tea plant, the kola nut tree, and many others.
Caffeine in nectar gives visiting bees a buzz (sorry!) so they keep coming back for more.
Think about that over your morning cuppa.