Category Archives: Plants & Animals

Mysterious Pollination Story Of Otherwise Common Houseplant Discovered

The mysterious flowers of Aspidistra elatior are found on the southern Japanese island of Kuroshima. Until recently, scientists thought that A. elatior has the most unusual pollination ecology among all flowering plants, being pollinated by slugs and amphipods. However, direct observation of their ecosystem has revealed that they are mainly pollinated by fungus gnats, probably thanks to their resemblance to mushrooms. (Click on title for full story.)

New Seed Dispersal Strategy In non-photosynthetic Plants Discovered: Crickets Ingesting Seeds

Insects have not been considered as internal seed carriers before because due to the small size of their bodies and mandibles, it was thought that they chewed up the seeds. However, the seeds of non-photosynthesizing plants are extremely small, so they can pass through the digestive system unharmed (Click on title for full story.)

To Monarch Butterflies, My Milkweed Patch May Be More Attractive Than Yours

A team of researchers has discovered that milkweed plants in farmland have 3 ½ times more monarch butterfly eggs than milkweed growing in urban gardens, natural areas and roadsides. They also found that monarchs prefer small patches of the plant to larger ones. (Click on title for full story.)

The Smallest Bees May Hold The Biggest Hope For Trees Facing Climate Change

To the biologists’ surprise, the smallest bees managed to cover distances just as far as their larger pollinating cousins, frequently acting as tiny matchmakers for trees separated by more than a mile (>2 km). In fact, in half of the cases where a pair of trees separated by a significant distance created a fruit together, the pollen had been carried by a bee no bigger than a grain of rice. (Click on title for full story.)

Agricultural Fields With Cover Crops A Haven For Wildlife

We think cover crops, such as cereal rye, likely provide migrating birds with more vegetation and a safe area to escape from the elements and from predators, Cover crops also increase insect abundance, another food source for birds. The increased number of insects allows migrants to fuel up faster and move on to their breeding grounds. (Click on title for full story.)

Lemurs Dependent On Bamboo Risk Climate Caused Extinction

Future projections show that many present-day greater bamboo lemur populations will experience prolonged dry seasons similar to those of the localities where only fossils of the greater bamboo lemur are found. Whereas abundant foods such as bamboo allow feeding specialists to thrive, even a moderate change in seasonality may outstrip the capacity of greater bamboo lemurs to persist on their mechanically demanding food source. Coupling known changes in species distribution with high-resolution ecological and historical data helps to identify extinction risks. (Click on title for full study.)

Fruit-Eating Animals Increase Biodiversity. And They Are Disappearing

Our study shows that interactions among species, such as those between animal seed dispersers and their food plants, are crucial for biodiversity and the benefits that nature provides to human societies’, explains Daniel Kissling. ‘We therefore should not only protect single species or enough space and habitats for animals to live. We also need to focus more efforts on restoring important interactions among species in places where they have been lost’. Without this, the future of biodiversity will look like a supermarket with empty shelves.(Click ontitle for full story.)

The Secret Colors Flowers Create: But How? And Why?

Only a few flowers, like cornflowers and Himalayan blue poppies, have achieved true blue, and all by using special chemical tricks like adding metals to their pigments, or making their petals more alkaline. “All of this is chemically quite difficult and not many species have evolved the enzymes to do it,” says Beverley Glover from the University of Cambridge. “Even with genetic modification, people have managed to make purple, bluish roses, but true blue isn’t happening.” So imagine her surprise when she found that many flowers have secret blue halos in their flowers. (Click on title for full story.)

Large Herbivores Essential To Spread Soil Nutrients

Despite the quirks, there are two important insights to this study. First, today we are rapidly losing our few remaining large animals (forest elephants have decreased by 60% in the last 10 years alone). Losing these animals will critically impair our future ecosystems as we lose their nutrient distribution capacity. Next there is an observed ecological rule called Cope’s rule that has shown that animals tend to get bigger over time. Basically, it is a good evolutionary strategy to get big because then it is harder for predators to eat you. Combining this rule, with what I have found in this study, that large animals are disproportionately important for the distribution of nutrients, indicates that the planet may have an intrinsic mechanism of increasing fertility over time. (Click on title for full story.)

Some Plants Respond Aggressively To Being Clipped

Some plants behave like the mythical monster Hydra: Cut off their heads and they grow back, bigger and better than before. A new study finds that these “overcompensators,” as they are called, also augment their defensive chemistry – think plant venom – when they are clipped. (Click on title for full story.)