One of the advantages/disadvantages to reading the Los Angeles Times is their focus on Hollywood and their idea of what constitutes a major news story. Page 24 of the front section of this morning’s paper features an interview with UC Riverside botanist Jodie Holt on the consulting work she did for the current James Cameron science fiction film, Avatar. In addition to helping shape the look of the plants in the film, her plant descriptions and taxonomies form a chapter of the fan book, Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora.
Edit [January 10]: I finally made it to see Avatar. While it’s not the sort of film I usually take myself to I had a great 2 hours and 42 minutes of escapism.
Some of the most striking botanical things seem to be the filmmaker’s borrowings from what earth’s marine life forms do already: plants with spectacular nighttime bioluminescence, seeds that float (while glowing) like marine jellyfish, or plants that glow when stepped on like certain marine algae. Actually I was surprised by how many plants I recognized already: ferny things, banana-leaved-looking things, tree-like things, grassy things. (Maybe that was botanist Jodie Holt’s influence?)
It made it look like Earth and Pandora were seeded with many of the same primordial spawn, which might be the case since humans were able to travel to Pandora in just a few years. If any filmmaker wants to option this compelling other story of divergent evolution on Earth and a distant planet’s moon, just e-mail me.