Gardeners and Nature lovers already appreciate the botanical wonders around us, but plants are more than floral beauties. We owe the air we breathe to them, all of our food, and most of our medicine, chemicals and housing. Animals from elephants to ants depend on plant-life. And the world's flora has an equally intimate relationship with the birds, insects, mammals and humans around them. Explore these relationships and find the latest botany discoveries through the links below. Check out the categories in the menu or try the search using the magnifying glass above.
0213001849

Apparently You CAN Teach An Old Slime Mold New Tricks

Slime mold, a unicellular organism at the bottom of the food chain, can learn, a finding that has important implications for understanding the evolution of learning, as well as how many creatures can be “smart” and successful without a brain. Learning likely even predates the emergence of nervous systems, much less brains, according to a new study, (Click on title for full story.)

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Birds Select Best Trees To Use As Refrigerators For Winter Food Storage

Another interesting element to note is that grey jays cache perishable food items into cracks in tree bark during the summer and autumn months. In fact, grey jays are the only bird species that we know about that routinely cache large amounts of perishable food items for long periods of time. How do these food items survive the warm summer months until the freezing temperatures of winter, when the birds consume their caches? Contrary to what you might expect; these birds are not merely caching food so they can survive harsh winters: grey jays nest and raise their chicks in the dead of winter, too. (Click on title for full story.)

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Why Would A Perfectly Nice Carnivorous Plant Subsist On Feces Instead Of Meat?

Pitcher plants grow on nutrient-poor soils, but whereas N. rafflesiana copes with this lack of nutrients by using fluid-filled pitchers to catch insect prey, N. hemsleyana has abandoned carnivory in favour of a unique and intimate relationship with the woolly bat. To provide the bat with an ideal roost, the pitchers of N. hemsleyana have evolved to perfectly fit the bat’s body. Unlike other pitcher plants they contain very little fluid. And most striking of all, the backwall of the pitcher forms a parabolic dish that aids the bat’s echolocation. In return for its roost, the bat hunts and pre-digests the insects, depositing them as faeces in the pitcher. To measure the costs and benefits of this mutualism, Schöner selected plants from both species in the field. When they produced new pitchers, she blocked them with cotton wool and cling-film to prevent bats or insects from entering. (Click on title for full story.)

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The Unsung Seed Disperser: The Galápagos Land Iguana

We knew that female iguanas on this island cover large distances, around 10 kilometres, and climb up to 1,500 metres of altitude to lay their eggs at the island’s volcanic crater. The researchers were able to collect 160 iguana faeces samples. They were able to identify 5,705 seeds from 32 plant species. (Click on title for full story.)

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Good Intentions Gone Bad: Pollinator Seed Mixes Spread Invasive Weeds

We don’t have any issues at all with the concept behind the pollinator habitat program; it’s a good program. But as a result of this program, we’ve now introduced Palmer amaranth to potentially thousands of acres of land, and we need to know what we are going to be allowed to do to try to stem the spread of it. And we need to do that quickly. (Click on title for full story.)

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Flowers Use Physics As Well As Color And Shape To Lure Pollinators

Research has traditionally explored the role of chemical pigments and volatile organic compounds as cues for pollinators, but recent reports have demonstrated the importance of physical and structural means of pollinator attraction. Here we explore the role of petal microstructure in influencing floral light capture and optics, analysing colour, gloss and polarization effects. We discuss the interaction between flower, pollinator and gravity, and how petal surface structure can influence that interaction. Finally, we consider the role of electrostatic forces in pollen transfer and pollinator attraction. We conclude that this new interdisciplinary field is evolving rapidly. (Click on title for full story.)

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Puny Mammals: Tallest Trees Bigger Than 5 Sperm Whales

Tallest tree aside, this work really highlights the value of protecting primary forests, These ancient trees are really only found in primary forests, many of which are not properly protected. A detailed map like this will be useful for establishing conservation priorities.” (Click on title for full story.)

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African Farmers Tend Cacao Planted By Wild Chimpanzees

This research has highlighted the possibility that the dispersal of crops by animals at other sites has the potential to positively impact the ability of wildlife to coexist in human-impacted habitats, especially if farmers gain economic benefits through the wildlife’s dispersal of crops. (Click on title for full story.)

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Climate Change Demands A New Understanding Of Endangered Plant Species

Few studies have incorporated palaeoecological data into projections of future distributions. Here we project changes in abundance and conservation status under a climate warming scenario for 187 European and North American plant taxa using niche-based models calibrated against taxa–climate relationships for the past 21,000 years. We find that incorporating long-term data into niche-based models increases the magnitude of projected future changes for plant abundances and community turnover. (Click on title for full story.)

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Invasion Of Wild Shrubs Tied To Extermination Of Wild Dingoes

Taken together, our results suggest a cascading effect. A loss of dingoes allows foxes and feral cats to thrive and prey on the small mammals that eat the shrub seeds. Fewer small mammals means the shrubs can spread. This is the first study to link shrub encroachment to loss of an apex predator like the dingo, and it could explain shrub spread in many other areas around the globe. Rewilding initiatives that aim to conserve or re-establish small mammal populations could help stop the invasion of these pervasive weeds in Australia, (Click on title for full story.)