Five Plant Defense Mechanisms (That Backfired)

  • September 07, 2010
  • 37,458
  • Science
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2.

Nicotine

nicotine

Hey, speaking of insanely addictive drugs that'll ultimately ruin your life, let's not complain about smokers for three paragraphs. Smokers really kind of have it rough. We still think it's a bit ridiculous that cities have banned smoking, because all the cars and buses and trucks dumping millions of tons of pollutants into the local atmosphere must do wonders for the lungs of every city dweller, but apparently if somebody lights a cigarette near a playground, children will die horribly of cancer.

The truth is, nicotine is insanely addictive to humans, in fact the single most addictive chemical on the market, legal or illegal. Yes, it's more addictive than crack. And that's thanks entirely to the stimulating effect nicotine has on your system; smokers are telling the truth when they say smoking relaxes them, but it also stimulates them, which is why a cheap cigarette and a bad cup of coffee are practically prerequisites in most cop shows.

It doesn't relax insects, though. Just the opposite. Nicotine is basically the insect version of injecting a pound of heroin straight into your brain: it kills their central nervous system and either paralyzes them or just outright smothers them by making them unable to breathe. It's basically bug nerve gas.

Who knew bug nerve gas could have such a rich, smooth taste?

1.

Cannabinoids

cannabinoids

Weed gets a bad rap, as drugs go. Yeah, if you do too much of it, you'll be a motivation-free loser who slowly floats through life without doing anything other than thinking anything is funny (around the office, we call those types our “core demographic”). And it's often used by the kind of "activist" who wears a Che t-shirt without realizing the inherent irony and counter-productive nature of buying a consumer product with an anti-capitalist guerilla on it. It's hard for people to give a fair shake to a chemical when so many of its users deserve to have daddy's credit cards cancelled on them and forced to get a job.

But it won't kill you. And why, exactly, cannabinoids evolved is up for debate. If you think about it, as an animal defence it's counterproductive. The animal chows down, gets the munchies, chows down, gets the munchies, and so on in an endless cycle that ends with herds of cows stumbling around the landscape, mooing desperately for Doritos.

Another theory holds that THC will protect plants from UV radiation, which would mean that in addition to driving the profits of the Dominos, Nabisco and the Frito-Lay corporation for the last fifty years or so, it's also a natural sunscreen.

We're pretty sure you could get a lot of volunteers to try that sunscreen. We're just saying.

Know some more members of the plant kingdom that are insane in the... xylem? Post a comment below!

Written by Dan Seitz – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - Caffeine: http://www.katom.com/Merchant2/graphics/clean2/blog/caffeine.jpg
  • - Capsaicin: http://www.craphound.com/images/il_430xN.20102293.jpg
  • - Morphine: http://graphics.ink19.com/issues/april2000/covers/morphine.jpeg
  • - Nicotine: http://howlongdoesmarijuanastayinyoursystem.net/cigarette.jpg
  • - Cannabinoids: http://itech.dickinson.edu/chemistry/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/thc-in-the-brain.jpg
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