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R Soc Open Sci. 2016 May 18;3(5):160091. doi: 10.1098/rsos.160091. eCollection 2016 May.

Novel Fibonacci and non-Fibonacci structure in the sunflower: results of a citizen science experiment.

Author information

1
Deodands Ltd.
2
University of Manchester Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

Abstract

This citizen science study evaluates the occurrence of Fibonacci structure in the spirals of sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seedheads. This phenomenon has competing biomathematical explanations, and our core premise is that observation of both Fibonacci and non-Fibonacci structure is informative for challenging such models. We collected data on 657 sunflowers. In our most reliable data subset, we evaluated 768 clockwise or anticlockwise parastichy numbers of which 565 were Fibonacci numbers, and a further 67 had Fibonacci structure of a predefined type. We also found more complex Fibonacci structures not previously reported in sunflowers. This is the third, and largest, study in the literature, although the first with explicit and independently checkable inclusion and analysis criteria and fully accessible data. This study systematically reports for the first time, to the best of our knowledge, seedheads without Fibonacci structure. Some of these are approximately Fibonacci, and we found in particular that parastichy numbers equal to one less than a Fibonacci number were present significantly more often than those one more than a Fibonacci number. An unexpected further result of this study was the existence of quasi-regular heads, in which no parastichy number could be definitively assigned.

KEYWORDS:

Fibonacci phyllotaxis; citizen science; parastichy number; sunflower Helianthus annuus

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