Numina in the News

The incipit of one of those science articles with plenty of Latin  words … this time, though, there’s also a reference to ‘Etruscan’ divinities:

Mildew infections not only cause unsightly vegetable patches, they can also result in extensive crop failure. Interestingly, the processes involved in infections with this garden pest are similar to those involved in fertilisation. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne and the University of Zurich have identified two proteins in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana that are necessary for both fertilisation and infection with powdery mildew. This explains why mildew-resistant plants, in which these genes are mutated, are infertile. (Science, Vol 330, p 968-971)

Pollen tubes and hyphae, the filamentous structures of which fungi are formed, not only look very similar, they also require similar proteins. The two proteins in question, which have just been discovered, are named after the Etruscan fertility goddesses Feronia and Nortia. The scientists discovered that these proteins are both beneficial and harmful to plants. They link the capacity for seed formation with the absence of resistance to mildew infection. [...]

Feronia was a divinity associated with fertility; Nortia with time (she was the one who was associated with the ritual ‘driving of the nail’ in the Capitoline Temple of Jupiter). Is it just me or do others think ‘Robigo/us’ might have been a better name for at least one of these proteins? Volutina might be another one ..

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