All posts by zooplantman

Former Director of Horticulture, Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo. Zoo exhibit & landscape designer perversely fascinated by the doings of plants, animals, ecosystems and other things not requiring batteries
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A Diet of Fruit (Not Leaves) Made Primates Big Brainiacs

Ask any biologist what makes primates special, and they’ll tell you the same thing: big brains. Those impressive noggins make it possible for primates from spider monkeys to humans to use tools, find food, and navigate the complex relationships of group living. But scientists disagree on what drove primates to evolve big brains in the first place. Now, a new study comes to an unexpected conclusion: fruit. (Click on title for full story.)

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Why Would A Melon Sell For $13,000 In Japan?

By all accounts, Japan’s obsession with luxury fruits begins with Sembikiya, the country’s largest and oldest high-end fruit provider. So, ahead of a trip to Japan last fall, I emailed Sembikiya to see about arranging an interview at their flagship store in Nihonbashi, a tony part of downtown Tokyo that’s home to luxury hotels, lacquer bowl purveyors, and washi paper boutiques. (Click on title for full story.)

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Pollinating Bees And Flowers Fit Like Key In A Lock

“The closer the bee fits to the flower, allowing it to touch both the male and female sexual organs, the more efficiently the insect can transfer pollen between plants.” Bees that are too small, relative to the size of the flower, transfer fewer pollen grains to other flowers and act ‘pollen thieves’, extracting the pollen they need without pollinating the flower. (Click on title for full story.)

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Spinach Leaves Used To Mend Damaged Human Hearts?

In a series of experiments, the team cultured beating human heart cells on spinach leaves that were stripped of plant cells. They flowed fluids and microbeads similar in size to human blood cells through the spinach vasculature, and they seeded the spinach veins with human cells that line blood vessels. These proof-of-concept studies open the door to using multiple spinach leaves to grow layers of healthy heart muscle to treat heart attack patients. (Click on title for full story.)

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Extinct Plant Comes Back From Oblivion To Stop A Development Project

“As far as we understand, the hibbertia was found on the project site in October last year and was the first time it had been seen since 1823. The planning assessment commission then approved the development in December – but wasn’t provided with any information about this newly rediscovered threatened species,” (Click on title for full story.)

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Scientists Reveal Grasses’ Breathing Secret And May Revolutionize Agriculture

The adaptability and productivity of grass makes understanding this plant family critical for human survival, the scientists said. Someday, whether through genetic modification or selective breeding, scientists might be able to use these findings to produce other plants with four-celled stomata. This could also be one of many changes – to chloroplasts or enzymes, for example – that help plants photosynthesize more efficiently to feed a growing population. (Click on title for full story.)

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Guam Provides A Glimpse Of A Future Without Seed Dispersing Animals

“You couldn’t conduct an experiment to demonstrate how birds affect dispersal and tree regeneration because you can’t experimentally keep birds out of large areas. But the situation on Guam provides a unique accidental experiment. It’s the only place in the world that has lost all frugivores. The difference between Guam and nearby islands is stark, which makes it an extreme example, but these sorts of changes are likely happening to some degree all over the world. (Click on title for full story.)

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When Will Volcano Erupt? Check With The Trees.

Scientists made a surprising discovery on their mission to find better indicators for impending volcanic eruptions: it looks like tree rings may be able to predict eruptions. (Click on title for full story.)

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Leaf-Cutter Ants Teach Their Nestmates Which Leaves To Avoid

Learning to avoid plants that are unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus does not necessarily need a direct assessment of the effects of that plant on fungus growth. Foragers that had experienced the negative effects of an unsuitable plant neither in the garden nor in the dump might be influenced in their choices by interactions with experienced nestmates. In this regard, we showed that non-confined foragers slightly but significantly decreased their acceptance for the specific plant that only their nestmates initially experienced during the confinement in the waste chamber. (CLick on title for full story.)

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Will Re-Creating Ice Age Landscapes Slow Climate Change? Welcome To Pleistocene Park.

If this intercontinental ice block warms too quickly, its thawing will send as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere each year as do all of America’s SUVs, airliners, container ships, factories, and coal-burning plants combined. It could throw the planet’s climate into a calamitous feedback loop, in which faster heating begets faster melting. “Pleistocene Park is meant to slow the thawing of the permafrost,” (Click on title for full story.)