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The 5,000 year old Fortingall Yew, in Perthshire, Scotland, has for hundreds of years been recorded as 'male', meaning it produces pollen, whereas female yews produce red berries.

But in a 'rare and unusual phenomenon' baffling scientists, it has started to sprout red seeds, suggesting that part of the tree is changing gender. 'It's thought that there's a shift in the balance of hormone-like compounds that will cause this sex-change.

If you’re in the excitement camp, however, here’s a nugget for you: DARPA believes that it's on the way to creating organisms capable of terraforming Mars into a planet that looks more like Earth.

This will probably first happen in bacteria and other microorganisms, but it sounds as though the goal may to do this with more complex, multicellular organisms in the future.

The utility of having such a capability is pretty astounding: Jackson threw out goals of eradicating vector-borne illnesses, which obviously sounds lovely and utopian.

To say that new methods need to be implemented before it is too late is an understatement.

"The oldest tree in Scotland has started to change sex, it has been claimed.

The researchers made a synthetic “protocell” made of DNA and proteins packaged inside lipids, which are fatty compounds meant to mimic the cell membrane.

These spheres aren’t alive, but the DNA in them contains instructions to replicate under the right conditions.

But researchers didn’t quite understand the mechanisms through which the earliest life forms evolved; though these cells were able to replicate, they were not yet alive.

Now a team of Japanese biologists has created artificial cells similar to those that might have first existed on Earth to better understand how they might have started to divide and evolve, according to a study published today in Nature Communications.

By changing the p H of the spheres’ environment, the researchers were able to trigger the cells to divide.

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