Cook pine trees are endemic to the New Caledonia area in the Pacific Ocean and are distinguishable from a distance due to their unique tilt towards the north. This is the case in the Southern Hemisphere, but a researcher was bamboozled when they discovered how every tree located in the northern latitudes tilted south!
The observation was made by Matt Ritter, a researcher at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, who was working on his recent book on Cook pine trees. He asked his colleagues about the discovery as well, and they too were amazed by this anomaly, which had eluded everyone up until now.
“We got holy-smoked that there’s possibly a tree that’s leaning toward the equator wherever it grows,” said Ritter of his eureka moment, to New Scientist.
The research that followed consisted of a study on 256 Cook pines across five continents and 18 locations between ranging from the latitudes of 7 and 35 degrees north, and 12 and 42 degrees south. The tilt on the trees was 8.55 degrees on an average, but the tree slants were observed to get acuter as they went further away from the equator in both hemispheres. The researchers even found one tree in South Australia slanting at an extreme 40 degrees!
Ritter says they require more investigation into the matter before they can deduce the reasons behind this, but he suspects the tilt has to do with getting more sun as they always point toward warmer weather.
“We could be just dealing with an artifact of its genetics that we are seeing now when we have spread it all over the world,” said Ritter.
The study is published in the journal Ecology.