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萜烯:世界上最常见的语言 – 译学馆
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萜烯:世界上最常见的语言

Terpenes: The Most Common Language in the World

或许你没听过它的名字
You’ve probably never heard of it by name,
但地球上确有这么一种语言 它比普通话更流行
but there’s a language on Earth more popular than mandarin,
比英语的使用范围更广
more widespread than English,
比形意舞更为通用
and more universal than interpretive dance.
它并非通过讲话 也非通过浏览
It isn’t spoken, and it isn’t viewed.
而是通过嗅觉(进行交流)
It’s smelled.
我说的就是萜烯——
I’m talking about terpenes —
一种多用途的
a multipurpose class of chemical compounds
可以用于种内与种间沟通交流的化合物
that can be used to communicate both within and across species.
它们用途广泛
They’re used in all kinds of ways,
从饥饿的“窃听”微生物
from hungry eavesdropping microorganisms,
到你认为绝不会相互沟通的生物之间
to brief back-and-forth conversations between creatures
简单往复的交流
you would never think would be up for a chat.
分子想要成为萜烯
All molecule has to do to be considered as terpene
只需要有正确的结构就可以了
is to have the right structure.
它们是 由多个有机分子亚基组成的
They’re made up of multiple subunits of an organic molecule called isoprene,
含有五个碳原子的异戊二烯
which has five carbon atoms.
这些亚基被重组为线形
These subunits can be arranged in a line,
或环形 或者两者皆有
or form rings, or both,
形成了如今超过三万种已知的化合物
leading to a diverse collection of over 30,000 known compounds.
因为萜烯包罗广泛
Because it’s so broad a label,
因此它们有多种不同的生物学功能
terpenes can have lots of different biological functions,
比如有维生素 激素 或是作为免疫系统的一部分
like as vitamins, hormones, or part of the immune system.
它们同样也是植物气味的常见来源
They’re also a really common source of scents in plants,
你或许听过人们讨论萜烯时 将它视作
you might’ve heard people talk about terpenes as the chemicals
能使不同的大麻发出不同香味的化学药品
that give different strains of cannabis different aromas,
同时 它们也对薄荷和杉树的气味起主导作用
and they’re responsible for the scent of things like peppermint and fir trees.
这些气味浓重的一个原因是 萜烯会挥发
One reason these smells are strong is that terpenes tend to be volatile,
意思是说 它们很容易就蒸发掉了
meaning that they evaporate easily.
这也同样使它们在沟通时非常有用
Which also makes them super useful for communication
它们可以长距离传播并被第二方探得
they can travel long distances and be detected by a second part.
一些萜烯被用于(进行)种内交流
Some terpenes are used to communicate within the same species,
这样的萜烯我们称之为信息素
in which case we’d call them a pheromone.
以雄烯酮为例
One example is androstenol,
它是雄猪释放的
which is emitted by male pigs
用以吸引附近的雌性进行交配(的信息素)
to signal a nearby female to assume a mating stance.
按定义 信息素只能用于同种生物间的交流
By definition, pheromones are only used to communicate within the same species.
但因为萜烯非常多样
But because terpenes are so diverse,
其中一些也可用于在整个动物界传递信息
some can be used to send information between entirely different kingdoms.
这里是说生物学上的界 不是洛汗和刚铎王国
Kingdoms of life, I mean. Not, like, Rohan and Gondor.
萜烯不是生物彼此交流的唯一分子
Terpenes aren’t the only kinds of molecules species use to communicate with each other,
但却是使用最为普遍的(一种)
but they are some of the most common.
比如许多有香味的花朵
Lots of sweet-smelling flowers, for instance,
使用萜烯来吸引传粉者
use terpenes to attract pollinators.
但植物也可以用它们来“拒绝”动物
But plants can also use them to keep critters away.
比如 猫最喜欢的猫薄荷 其内含有的化合物
Like, the compound in catnip that cats love so much?
其实是一种驱虫萜烯
That’s actually an insect-repelling terpene.
植物甚至能通过萜烯传递求救的化学信息
Plants can even use terpenes as a chemical cry for help.
如果毛毛虫挑错了树叶并大嚼特嚼
If a caterpillar picks the wrong leaf to munch on,
它自己很可能刚好被当作一顿大餐
it might just find itself a meal because
因为植物会释放一些萜烯
the plant releases terpenes that attract
吸引毛毛虫的天敌或寄生虫
one of that caterpillar’s natural predators or parasites.
就像烟草植物会对 天蛾幼虫的唾液 做出反应
Like when tobacco plants respond to the saliva of tobacco hornworms
释放信号来吸引大眼昆虫一样
by releasing a signal that attracts the big-eyed bug.
或者 萜烯信号可能不是求救信号
Or, the terpene-signal can be less of an SOS telling
更多的是一种“自我保护”的信号
and more of a “Save yourselves”
告诉这个区域其他的植物 增强防卫
telling other plants in the area to bolster any defenses they have
以免这些昆虫来袭
in case the herbivore comes their way.
当被红叶螨啃食时 立马豆叶会做出这样的反应
Lima bean leaves can do this when they’re being eaten by spider mites,
甚至在红叶螨接触它们之前 就做出反应了
even when they’re not attached to a plant!
但是 和其他形式的交流一样
But like with any form of communication,
这种信息有可能会被截获
there’s a chance the message will be intercepted.
比如 一些原生生物
For example, some kinds of protists
通过“窃听”不同细菌发出的萜烯
can hunt for bacteria in a pitch black maze of soil
可以在漆黑一片的泥土迷宫中捕食它们
by eavesdropping on the terpenes sent between the different bacteria.
依靠探得的特定化合物
Based on the specific chemicals detected,
原生动物便可辨识出萜烯的发送者
the protist can identify the terpene sender’s species.
如果是它可摄食的物种
If it’s a species the protist eats,
它就会直接冲向细菌
it can make a beeline straight for the bacteria.
我目前提到的所有例子更像是我的独白
All the examples I’ve mentioned so far have been more of a monologue.
另一种生物或许会对获取的信息作出反应
Another creature might act on the information they get,
但并不会反馈信息
but they aren’t really returning the call.
但研究者已经发现了似乎
But researchers have seen what appears to be
更像是用萜烯进行的真实的交流
more of an actual conversation using terpenes.
例如 在2017年四月发表于《科学报告》上的一篇论文当中
For example, in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports in April 2017,
研究者发现 当特定的真菌在某些细菌周围
researchers found that when a particular fungus emits some terpenes
发出一些萜烯时
in the vicinity of a certain species of bacteria,
细菌不仅四处移动来回应这种香味
the bacteria not only reacts to the fragrance by moving around,
而且还会产生自己的萜烯来回应真菌
but responds to the fungus by emitting terpenes of their own.
有一种名叫发汗剂的萜烯
One of those terpenes goes by the name sodorifen,
和研究过的其他萜烯相比
which has a super unusual structure
拥有非同寻常的结构
compared to all the other terpenes we’ve studied.
基本上 它有两个相互铰连的环状结构
Basically, it has two cyclic structures smushed together
碳环上的每个碳原子都与另一个相连
and every carbon atom on the ring has another carbon atom hanging off of it.
我们还不完全清楚细菌为何以及如何产生发汗剂
We’re still not entirely sure how or why bacteria make sodorifen,
所以在弄清楚细菌究竟要向真菌表达什么之前
so we’ll need a lot more research before we know exactly
我们还需要做更多的研究
what these bacteria are trying to say to the fungi.
但破解萜烯的这种语言
But deciphering this language of terpenes,
以及其他用于种族间交流的
as well as the other less common compounds
不太常见的化合物的语言
used to communicate between species,
是研究的重要领域
is a major area of research.
大多数有机体会产生多种萜烯混合物
Most organisms produce complex mixtures of terpenes,
不是一两种
not just one or two,
这就能够支持更广的词汇和更复杂的沟通
which allows for a wider vocabulary and a more complex conversation.
如果科学家能搞清楚不同分子指示何种信号
So, if scientists can work out how the different molecules signal different species,
我们可以使用萜烯来发出自己的指令
we can use terpenes to issue our own orders.
它作为目前使用的杀虫剂和肥料替代品
That has a lot of potential for the agricultural industry especially,
尤其会为农业的发展带来巨大的潜力
as an alternative to the pesticides and fertilizers that are used now.
经过更多的研究 萜烯还可以最终用来
With more research, terpenes could eventually be used to protect crops from hungry pests
保护作物免受饥饿的害虫 真菌和细菌的侵袭
or fungal and bacterial infections,
或改善作物的生长和健康状况
or to improve crop growth and health.
我们也许可以对植物或微生物进行基因改造
We might even be able to genetically engineer plants
来生产这些萜烯
or microorganisms to produce these terpenes.
或许你永远也不能坐下来
So, you’ll probably never be able to sit down
和你种植的植物来一次对话
and have a conversation with your houseplant,
但至少你可以说
but maybe at least you’ll be able to say,
“待会再来闻你”
“Smell you later.”
感谢观看本期《科学秀》
Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
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如果你想支持本节目
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视频概述

比普通话使用的人数还多,比英语使用还广泛的语言是什么呢?想了解动植物乃至细菌的沟通方式吗?

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视频来源

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PlhcI8O1NY

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