Thursday, January 7, 2010

The World of Avatar

Avatar (2009 film)Image via Wikipedia
...and it's resemblances to existing earth creatures.

I confess, I went to see James Cameron's Avatar twice, once in a regular movie theater and the second time in IMAX 3D. This movie is amazing. Story aside, it's a visual masterpiece. The universe created on the scene is complete, the level of details is mind boggling, and the species extraordinary yet maintain a level of familiarity. In some cases, the species used are magnified and glorified and spliced versions of creatures present on our very earth and in our oceans.

I will mention only the few I can think of off the top of my head and which required little to no further research for the moment. Having seen the movie might help understand what I'm refering too as I have no footage of the movie to support my findings.

In the forests of Pandora, plants are gigantic. My darling hubster noticed was he described as tentacle like plants which disappointedly weren't carnivorous. He expected them to unravel and grab an unsuspecting skyperson (to use the Na'vi term for human) and rip it apart or something exciting of the sort. I laughed and shook my head. He was referring to the giant Fiddleheads, baby ferns to be romantinc. To be more scientific, Fiddeleheads are the unfurled fronds of young ferns. Young ferns unroll as it emerges from the ground. Certain species are harvested in early spring for consumption in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America. They are not farmed therefore they must be sustainably and manually harvested from the forest. A word of caution for the brave and adventurous eaters, fiddleheads must be cooked before eating as they do contain toxins - a necessary protection against herbivores.

The second plant/organism that stood out was the retractable spirally plant Jake Sully (main character) plays with on his first official outing in Pandora in his avatar. When I saw it on screen, my zoology class instantly came to mind. I introduce to you, dear reader, the Christmas tree worm.

[Picture on the left by  Peter Landecker and on right by Jim Kasson]

These little creatures are sedentary tube-building worms with stunning breathing and filter-feeding apparatus which resemble a christmas tree. And, they are retractable! Each worm has two colourful fir-shaped crowns. They are present all over the world and are a favorite of divers. The feather-like tentacles are called radioles and are designed to move trapped food to the worm's mouth and serve as gills for breathing purposes.

The movie version has been identified as an Helicoradian. Avatar Wiki describes it as follows : 

"Helicoradian (also known as Loreyu, meaning "beautiful spiral") is a zooplantae (part animal, part plant) possessing a single leaf that responds to touch by coiling up and retracting to the ground. Its neuromuscular system makes it difficult for xenobiologists to classify. Helicoradia can grow to 6-8 meters (20-26 feet) in height and 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) across.
The Na'vi use leaves of the Helicoradian to make ornate ceremonial robes and other garments, tents and sacks. Orange pigments in leaves can be extracted and used for paint. 
The helicoradian is a type of "sensitive zooplantae" that responds to touch by coiling up so that the single large leaf is no longer exposed to any herbivores that would eat it. Because it grows in clusters, the touch response, or thigmonasty, by one helicoradian often triggers the same response in others growing nearby so that the entire population recoils, one plant after another. This retraction is both defensive and an effective feeding mechanism to trap insects and small animals.
The Na'vi are able to wander among the helicoradian without triggering this defense response, but are warned of the presence of danger when the helicoradian start to retract."

I wonder who did the research for background botany of this movie, I would love to meet this person, not to mention own the Pandora Botany book. (Such a nerd...sigh...) My brother uses the term "Avatreckie", to describe people like myself and my hubby, that enjoy Avatar a little too much - so be it, Avatreckie we are.

Next Avatar post, I'll tell you why I don't think their sacred tree is a plant.

Happy New Year!

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1 comment:

  1. you must be the cuttest nerd I know:)
    that movie was like a journey inside my perfect world ! I saw it 2 times already ... I didn't know thoses plants really existed ...thank you I learn something new today :)
    and sorry for my bad english


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