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

To Encourage Disease Fighting Mites, Plants Offer Housing And Food

One widespread plant trait hypothesized to impact the selective benefit of mite domatia is extrafloral nectar: a sugary substance secreted from non-floral plant glands (called extrafloral nectaries) that attracts and feeds beneficial arthropods. Although extrafloral nectar has typically been studied for its role in attracting ant bodyguards to plants, several recent studies have suggested that extrafloral nectar may also enhance plant–mite defence mutualisms by facilitating larger standing populations of mites on leaves (Click on title for full paper.)

Starlings And The Wild Chili Peppers That Need Them

The research team chose to focus on the chili plants in question because of the unique social significance the people of the Mariana Islands place on them. The harvested chili plants provide a source of income as well as a delicious ingredient for spicy foods. Many local residents claim that this type of chili plant is difficult to cultivate, and that cultivated plants don’t pack the same spicy punch as wild plants. (Click on title for full story.)

Trees Show That Major Geological Changes Caused Amazon’s Great Biodiversity

The research has produced a biogeographical scenario that confirms in this context the significance of the geological history of north-western South America during the late Miocene and early Pliocene periods about 5 to 10 million years ago. “We have actually discovered that the diversification of these two plant genera took place in parallel with major geological events, namely the formation of the Andes, the drying-out of the Pebas system, and the development of a land bridge to Central America, (Click on title for full story.)

Plants Evolve To Eliminate Chemical Defenses That No Longer Succeed

These findings support the “defense de-escalation” hypothesis, which posits that organisms will evolve to stop using precious resources on defense mechanisms if they’re not working anymore. One benefit of defense de-escalation is potentially diverting resources to defenses that do work. (Click on title for full story.)

It’s Complicated. Over-Hunting Of Tropical Animals Destroys Forests And Carbon Sequestration? Maybe.

But the long-term implications for biodiversity and the biomass of forests are not yet clear. And the expectation that without their dispersers, seeds of these plant species will land in the “kill zone” of insects and diseases under their parents and be replaced by other species that store less carbon, culminating in huge decreases in the amount of carbon stored in tropical forests, has not materialized. (Click on title for full story.)

Forget Smoking It, Hemp Could Replace Concrete

The most sustainable building material is not concrete or steel — it is fast-growing hemp. Hemp structures date to Roman times. A hemp mortar bridge was constructed in the sixth century, when France was still Gaul. A wave of builders and botanists are working to renew this market. Mixing hemp’s woody fibers with lime produces a natural, light concrete that retains thermal mass and is highly insulating. No pests, no mold, good acoustics, low humidity, no pesticide. It grows from seed to harvest in about four months. (Click on title for full story.)

Newly Defined Plant Habitat Discovered In China’s Caves

We suggest that within SW China caves serve as both refuges and a valuable source of germplasm for the restoration of karst forest. We also propose that caves represent a distinct habitat for plants that is most similar to that of the forest understory, but distinct with respect to the absence of trees, leaf litter, root mats, higher levels of atmospheric CO2, and lower diurnal and annual variation in temperature and humidity. We highlight tourism, agriculture and the absence of legislated protection of caves as the main current threats to this flora. (Click on title for full report.)

The Seed Dispersing Animal No One Thought Of: Snakes

The abundance of snakes can also contribute to the importance of their role in seed dispersal. As the researchers note, a rattlesnake can consume as many as 20 rodent meals – with potentially hundreds of seeds inside – during its 25- to 30-week active season. Individual rattlesnakes occupy large home ranges, and can travel as much as 2 kilometers in just a few days, a far greater distance than the rodents themselves would have traveled. (Click on title for full story.)

No Fools These: Venus Flytraps Don’t Trap Their Own Pollinators

While most people are familiar with Venus flytraps and their snapping jaws, there is still a lot that scientists don’t know about the biology of these carnivorous plants. Researchers have for the first time discovered which insects pollinate the rare plants in their native habitat – and discovered that the flytraps don’t dine on these pollinator species. (Click on title for full story.)

Removing Even An Overlooked Tiny Insect From An Ecosystem Can Cause Serious Damage

A mutualistic relationship between species in an ecosystem allows for the ecosystem to thrive, but the lack of this relationship could lead to the collapse of the entire system. New research reveals that interactions between relatively small organisms are crucial to mutualistic relationships in an ecosystem dominated by much larger organisms, including trees and elephants. (Click on title for full story.)