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April 20, 2016


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“The circles compete with one another and space themselves apart from the circles around them . . . They almost function like an organism,” says a plant physiologist in that good BBC piece.

And an organism they function like, it appears, is King Clone: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Clone

"Creosote bush stands tend to display an evenly spaced distribution of plants. Originally, it was assumed that the plant produced a water-soluble inhibitor that prevented the growth of other bushes near mature, healthy bushes. Now, however, it has been shown that the root systems of mature creosote plants are simply so efficient at absorbing water that fallen seeds nearby cannot accumulate enough water to germinate, effectively creating dead zones around every plant. It also seems that all plants within a stand grow at approximately the same rate, and that the creosote bush is a very long-living plant." (Wikipedia, citing Phillips, Donald L.; MacMahon, James A. "Competition and spacing patterns in desert shrubs". Journal of Ecology 1981)
Someone needs to measure the distribution of the American version in Creosote Rings Preserve. The outstanding mystery, however, is how it occurred to Sinclair and Zhang to compare these two data sets. Perhaps Mathematical Biology keeps a list of packing problems? Varying with time and fitness of multicellular automata? Lovely questions, thanks very much.

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