Karacosis wutansis (S/F)

Karacosis wutansis (also called the Wu flower) is a transgenic hybrid genus and species of flowering plant. It was first cultivated by Dr. Henry Wu and colleagues at International Genetic Technologies, Inc. in May 1997 after four years of research and was the first known hybrid genus of organism to be engineered. It was presented to the International Society of Geneticists and by May 21 its scientific name was in the process of being finalized. The scientific name was not selected by Dr. Wu himself, but rather by the International Society of Geneticists in honor of him.

While the genetic makeup of this hybrid is mostly unknown (its only confirmed component is a Late Cretaceous orchid in the genus Cattleya), it is credited with revolutionizing the field of genetics and attracting the interest of Simon Masrani, CEO of Masrani Global Corporation, to buying InGen.

Description

This is a small orchid-like flowering plant which grows between 10 and 12 centimeters (3.93 to 4.72 inches) tall and has a mass of 2 to 2.8 grams (well under an ounce in weight). Its general appearance is similar to orchids of the genus Cattleya, which was used as the genomic template when this species was engineered.

Based on the morphology of Cattleya, it most likely has has a cylindrical rootstalk from which noodle-like fleshy roots extend. Its parent genus is an epiphytic plant, growing on larger plants such as trees, and has upright conical or cylindrical pseudobulbs from which single or paired leaves extend. Leaves are smooth and fleshy; while Cattleya leaves may be lanceolate, elliptical, or oblong, K. wutansis appears to prefer the lanceolate morphology, with leaves widening at the base and narrowing to a tip at the end. Leaf vein patterns are not currently known.

Flowers on Cattleya (and likely on K. wutansis) are arranged in a raceme, a type of unbranched inflorescence in which flowers are arranged along an axis. There are only a few flowers. Petals and sepals are separate from each other. The lowermost petal, called the labellum or lip, is colored differently than the others; in many orchid species this is an evolutionary trait meant to attract pollinators. The labellum is tubular in shape and partly covers the flower column. Cattleya has four polliniums, the bag-like organs that contain pollen, so it is likely that K. wutansis does too. The fruit is a capsule; seeds are numerous and small in size.

At the moment, the coloration of Karacosis wutansis is not known as the only canon image of it comes in the form of a blue-tinted but otherwise colorless hologram. The shading on the image, however, implies that the flower is light in color, and it has long been assumed by fans to be white.

Growth

The growth pattern of this genus is unknown, but its growth rate is reasonably rapid. It was first engineered in May of 1997, and by May 21 was presented to the International Society of Geneticists and was given a binomial name, meaning it was recognized as a unique genus and species. This suggests that it grows from seed to maturity in, at most, roughly three weeks.

Sexual Dimorphism

Assuming it bears the sexual traits of orchids, Karacosis wutansis is most likely a monoecious plant. This means it lacks distinct sexes and instead bears both male and female parts within the same flower. There are a few dioecious orchid genera, but Cattleya is not one of them. It is, however, possible that K. wutansis could have inherited dioecy from one of its other parent species.

Habitat
Preferred Habitat

Flowering plants can grow in a wide range of climate types, Dr. Wu was working at an InGen facility in San José, Costa Rica when he bred this flower. The plant may have been adapted to the local environment; alternatively, Dr. Wu and associates may have engineered it for a different environment type to prevent it from accidentally spreading into the wild. Some or all of its parent genera were originally from the Late Cretaceous period, and so they would have been adapted to a different ecosystem than that of modern Costa Rica.

Isla Nublar

Beginning in at least 2004, InGen housed experimental hybrid plants in a research greenhouse on Isla Nublar. It is likely that K. wutansis was among them. After the park opened, the research and public greenhouses were merged with the arboretum to form the Botanical Gardens, where these flowers would have remained. If any survived on the island after 2015, they likely became extinct on or after June 23, 2018 during a volcanic eruption of Mount Sibo.

Isla Sorna

There is no evidence that K. wutansis was ever introduced to Isla Sorna. At the date it was formally named on May 21, 1997, Isla Sorna had been almost untouched for four years, though the 1997 Isla Sorna incident beginning six months later would result in the island becoming used for genetic research again.

Other

The first K. wutansis was created in May of 1997 by Dr. Henry Wu et al. at a the InGen facility in San José, Costa Rica. This is, at the moment, the only known location where K. wutansis has existed. Whether it has been put on the market as a rare, coveted orchid is not known; InGen does not seem to have bred it outside of Costa Rica.

Ecology
Activity Patterns

Orchids, like most flowering plants, are active during the day because they photosynthesize to generate energy. Their metabolism slows at night when sunlight is unavailable. Rarely, there are orchid species (though not Cattleya) which flower only at night. It is not known whether the other plants used to construct Karacosis wutansis are among those uncommon species that are more active at night.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

The majority of plants are autotrophs, using chlorophyll-bearing tissues such as leaves to take in sunlight as a catalyst for the process of photosynthesis. Roots are often used for water and nutrient uptake. In this process, carbon dioxide and water are used to produce sugars, with oxygen generated as a waste product. Orchids such as Cattleya, which was used as the genomic template for the Wu flower, follow this pattern.

There are, however, some unusual plants which utilize other methods of generating energy. Some are carnivorous, trapping small animals and digesting them for energy, while others are parasitic on larger plants. Symbiosis is common among plants, with microorganisms and fungi living in the root systems to aid in nutrient uptake; this is taken to an extreme in a few rare subterranean species which rely entirely on their symbiotic partners and do not use photosynthesis at all.

While some of the nutritional needs of K. wutansis are most likely influenced by its Cattleya genes, other plants used to create it may also have an effect. Its feeding patterns are currently undisclosed.

Social Behavior

Many plant species grow in groups and have simple forms of communication, such as chemical signals transmitted through the roots. It is not known if individual K. wutansis plants have relationships with one another.

Reproduction

Since its morphology is orchid-like, it can be assumed that the Wu flower has a reproductive pattern similar to that of orchids, especially the genus Cattleya which was used as its genomic template. Orchid flowers are highly specialized for their pollinators; most do not self-fertilize, instead requiring cross-pollination between different individuals. The shape and color of the labellum is the primary means by which pollinating insects such as orchid bees are attracted. The most specialized of orchids even have lips which physically resemble the insect they intend to attract, tricking the insect into trying to mate with the flower and picking up pollen this way. Others have flowers that are built like traps, forcing the insects to pass through the pollen-bearing organs in order to escape. Many are less elaborate, though, and use visual cues (as well as scent, or sometimes nectar) to draw pollinators forth.

Orchids are so specialized that pollination does not occur very often, so they remain fertile for a long period of time and deliver a complete load of pollen at once. An insect will pick up pollen from the flower interior, and then when it lands on another flower, it will deposit the pollen into the receptive organ. After it is fertilized, the flower will develop into a dehiscent capsule fruit. Seeds are extremely numerous, and almost microscopic. Once the fruit is ripe, the seeds will be blown off like dust, landing in the surrounding area. Most orchids require symbiotic fungi to germinate, since they are unable to obtain nutrients themselves at this stage. Because of the low likelihood of a seed happening upon a helpful fungus, most never germinate, and only a handful of millions will actually grow.

Horticulturalists can use tools and scientific techniques to bypass the stringent requirements for orchid growth in captivity, such as using a brush or pencil to hand-pollinate the flowers and producing a carbohydrate medium where the seeds can grow without the need for symbiotic fungi. Such techniques are probably necessary for K. wutansis, which is an artificial species that lacks natural ecology.

The information here is relevant to orchid-like reproduction. Since the Wu flower is a hybrid of several plants of which Cattleya orchids are just one, the above information may not be completely applicable.

Communication

Many types of plants can communicate with one another using networks of symbiotic fungi which live in and around their roots, as well as using chemical signals dispersed through the air, water, or the ground. It is likely that K. wutansis would possess such traits, though specific details have not been disclosed.

Ecological Relationships

Karacosis wutansis is an artificial hybrid with no natural ecology. This means it lacks relationships that its parent species would be unable to survive without. Orchids in particular, such as its ancestor Cattleya, cannot reproduce without assistance from at least two other organisms: insects and fungi. Only a few orchids are able to propagate in the absence of such symbiotes.

Insects are pollinators, drawn to the orchid flowers by visual cues, scent, and sometimes nectar. Orchid bees are a common example, but other insects such as ants and flies may also act as pollinators. Many orchids are specially adapted to a particular kind of pollinating insect, with some employing elaborate structures to trick insects into transferring pollen from one plant’s flower to another. Other flowering plants have less specialized flowers, but all are evolved to gain the attention of a certain pollinating animal (often insects, but also other creatures including birds and mammals).

Fungi, specifically mycorrhizal species in the division Basidiomycota, are a vital component of orchid reproduction. Nearly all orchid species are mycoheterotrophic at some stage in life, meaning they obtain one hundred percent of their nutrition from fungi that live symbiotically in their bodies. Most mycorrhizae live in the roots. Orchid seeds lack a tissue called endosperm which most plant seeds possess, and without this, they are utterly dependent on symbiotic fungi to obtain nutrition during the early stages of their lives.

All plant species have predators, herbivorous animals that feed on them. Orchids are often affected by insects, mites, and other small arthropods, and may also be chewed on by rodents.

Cattleya is an epiphytic orchid, meaning it grows on other plants rather than in the ground. It can grow in soil in captivity, but in the wild, it is usually found anchored to trees or woody shrubs.

Since Karacosis wutansis was bred in a laboratory and lives exclusively in captivity, it exchanges all of its ancestors’ ecological relationships for a complete dependence on humans. This can be seen as a form of obligate symbiosis, though it is only obligate for the plant. Humans are the plant’s only pollinators, and also provide it with the nutrient medium it needs in order to germinate. It is protected from predators and disease. In theory, scientists could genetically engineer pollinators and mycorrhizae to match the unique needs of this flower, but no efforts to do this have been reported. For now, K. wutansis is utterly dependent on humans for reproduction and survival.

Cultural Significance
Symbolism

Since it is a completely artificial genus and species of plant, it does not have any historical use as a symbol or metaphor like most flowers do. It does resemble an orchid, which has historically been used as a symbol of virility and fertility, in no small part due to the flower’s role as a reproductive organ and the elaborate relationship it has with its pollinators. Orchids flower for a long time and need specific conditions to flourish, so they are considered exotic flowers and symbols of luxury. They may also symbolize love, strength, beauty, and thoughtfulness. The Wu flower in particular can be seen as a symbol of scientific accomplishment and possibility.

Its species name honors Henry Wu, the lead geneticist of the team that created it.

In Captivity

So far this plant is only confirmed in captivity, as it is not a naturally-occurring species. Details on how it should be cared for and cultivated have not yet been released. Requirements may be similar to Cattleya orchids.

Science

Karacosis is the first hybrid genus to be engineered intentionally by humans under laboratory conditions, and its sole species, K. wutansis, is likewise the first species to be engineered in such a way. As of May 21, 1997, it was being formally named by the International Society of Geneticists, meaning it was scientifically recognized as a legitimate genus and species. This is a groundbreaking change for biological taxonomy, which traditionally does not recognize hybrids. It is unknown how it has been classified.

It was genetically engineered by revolutionary American geneticist Dr. Henry Wu, who was at the time employed by International Genetic Technologies, Inc. He had worked for the past four years on creating a viable hybrid genus; his ambitions were described in his 1995 book, The Next Step: An Evolution of God’s Concepts, and many (including Wu himself) considered K. wutansis to be a realization of the techniques conceptualized in his book.

While Wu had been using hybridization as a form of genetic engineering since the mid-1980s, the creation of K. wutansis would open up a new field. Rather than using hybridization to alter or enhance an existing genus or species, he demonstrated that entirely new ones could be created. His work would come to a head between 2008 and 2012 with the creation of the species Indominus rex, a complex hybrid animal including genes sourced from at least twelve different animal species. From this point onward, the synthesis of entirely new genera of living thing was a firmly established scientific possibility, and Wu would continue research into it for the remainder of his career.

Politics

The creation of K. wutansis gained international media attention, though former InGen CEO John Hammond could not attend the meeting of the International Society of Geneticists due to his failing health. Despite the San Diego incident occurring in the same year that the Society formally named the Wu flower, it captured the attention of Indian tech mogul Simon Masrani, a friend of Hammond’s. As a result, Masrani Global Corporation began bidding on InGen after the fallout of the San Diego incident and finalized the merger in 1998.

Hybrid genera engineered since this plant have been politically contentious and controversial because the best-funded lineage was designed with military use in mind. Karacosis wutansis, while symbolically significant in the history of genetic hybridization research, has escaped these same controversies as it was created for purely scientific reasons.

Resources

It is unknown whether Karacosis wutansis produces any resources that make it beneficial, or if it can be used for any ecological services in any environment. For the time being, its sole use is for genetics research.

Since it resembles an orchid, and orchids are commonly used as ornamental flowers due to their long-blooming nature and exotic appearance, this plant may be used decoratively. Orchids are also used for fragrance, and for identifying new perfume scents. However, it is not currently known if InGen has made the Wu flower commercially available. Should it be sold, its nature as an artificial species would make it inherently one of the most exclusive plants in the world.

Safety

This plant has been raised in laboratory conditions and publicly presented, so it probably does not produce any potent airborne toxins. However, its genetic makeup is not completely known, so its toxicity cannot be assumed with any level of certainty. Orchid pollen is not airborne and so has little allergenic effect, but the sap may produce an allergic reaction; also, the other plants used to make this species may possibly grant it airborne pollen. Until more information is known about this species, it is best handled only by its creators.

From left to right: Lilium candidum, Nelumbo nucifera, Galanthus nivalis. While the complete genetic makeup of Karacosis wutansis is not currently known, these flowering plants provide examples of what it may include.