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Floating meadows like Noah’s ark

October 25, 2011

On the planet Shora, there are living rafts like trees that float, their root/branches extending through the water. These rafts grow for many years, building up soil that supports floating wildlife, like Noah’s ark. The Sharers tunnel into the huge “trunks” of the raft, and hide their genetic engineering cultures there.

Amazingly, real floating meadows exist, breaking out of the mouth of huge rivers such as the Amazon. They can cover more than a square mile and support animals as large as capybaras. Such floating meadows are believed to have brought animals to remote islands such as the Galapagos.

The Sargasso Sea is another place where floating  vegetation supports wildlife. Has anyone gone scuba diving there?

These living rafts are tremendous agents of migration, the argonauts of species finding new homes on distant continents. Similarly, some day the space colony ships will carry life forms to new stars.

  1. Whit permalink
    October 26, 2011 12:27 am

    Such rafts are also featured in James Schmitz The Tuvela, and Jack Vance’s The Blue World.

  2. October 26, 2011 12:46 pm

    Another fun discussion of rafting at in the comment section.

    The odd thing is that relatively little science has been done on rafting, and so rafts have been invoked as the Great Disperser without much evidence about how often they occur or how well they work. Botanists have something similar (The Constipated Seagull) as an explanation for plant dispersal.

    • October 26, 2011 3:06 pm

      Animal digestive tracts are a major dispersal agent for plants. That is why so many fruits have sweet flesh, but indigestible seeds. In the tropical forests, the great dispersers are monkeys. Tropical plant leaves are full of alkaloids to sicken the monkeys (or make them hallucinate) to encourage them to avoid leaves and eat fruits.

      The monkeys often get around the poisons though by eating a little from many different types of leaf, so they don’t consume too much of any one poison. That is probably why chimps and humans need diverse diets.

      BTW in Ohio I’m told it used to be legal to spread human manure on lawns. The problem with that was that so many tomato plants sprang up. 😉

    • October 26, 2011 3:35 pm

      Oh, is that what I’m missing from my garden?

      The constipated seagull is something I’ve heard invoked for amphitropical distributions, plants (such as Larrea aka creosote bush) that occur in temperate South America and North America, and nowhere in between. Why a seagull would fly into the desert, chow down on a rather resinous and hairy capsule, and immediately fly thousands of miles (across the equator, no less) without defecation is the part I don’t get. There are similar issues with getting California tarplants to Hawaii.

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