Biology Question #2020

Dawn, a 40 year old female from Santa Clarita asks on March 29, 2004,

Is a seed a living thing? If so, how do you prove it? Is it living before you add water?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on March 29, 2004

A seed is not exactly a living thing, though it maintains the potential to become alive. A similar question was answered about seeds in mammoth feces. "Proving" life is always somewhat debatable when you get to the extremes like seeds and viruses, but there are a number of ways to do it with seeds.

Seeds require a minimal amount of energy to stay viable, and they do eventually die completely. Some seeds can "live" for hundreds of years and some lotus seeds can maintain the potential for life for around 2000 years. They keep the ability to germinate when the conditions are right. A seed has this potential before you add water because it is using a tiny amount of energy to maintain it's viability, to maintain it's ability to grow based on the information in it's DNA and a stored energy source within (though some seeds do not even have this, prefering to use a symbiotic fungus or a host for nutrients).

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