Category Archives: Plants & Animals

Last Great Extinction: Did Megafauna Stifle The Plants Or Did Plants Overwhelm The Megafauna?

Plants may have exerted greater influence on our terrestrial ecosystems than the megaherbivores that used to roam our landscapes, according to new research. Previously, scientists believed that the Late Quaternary extinction event that took place between ~ 11,000 and 15,000 years ago across much of northern Europe, played a significant role in the subsequent expansion of woody plants and declining nitrogen availability over the last 10,000 years. But in a new study, published in Ecology Letters, researchers suggest the changes had already started to occur in Britain and Ireland at the same time these mammals – such as the woolly mammoth, Giant Irish Deer, reindeer and wild horse – began to die out. (Click on title for full story.)

Spiders Discovered To Act As Defenders Of Plants

Studying the interaction between the spiders and the buckler-mustard (a yellow flowering plant common in Europe), the researchers came to an even more surprising conclusion: the plant itself can send out a “cry for help” when heavily attacked by florivores (flower-feeding herbivores). (Click on title for full story)

Pollinators Are Not Only Insects: The Importance Of Vertebrate Pollinators

Although less familiar as flower visitors than insect pollinators, vertebrate pollinators are more likely to have co-evolved tight relationships of high value to the plants they service, supplying essential reproductive aid for which few or no other species may substitute. In plants known to receive flower visitations from vertebrates, fruit and seed production drops 63 percent, on average, when the larger animals, but not insects, are experimentally blocked from accessing the plants (click on title for full story).

Will Climate Change Transform An Invasive Milkweed Into Monarch Butterflies’ Enemy?

In essence, with climate change, too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, specifically when it comes to the tropical milkweed plant. The native A. incarnata milkweed naturally produces fewer toxic chemicals than the tropical milkweed, but warmer conditions don’t radically change these levels. Under conditions of global warming, monarchs feeding on the non-native milkweed fare much worse in terms of growth and survival than monarchs feeding on native milkweed. (Click on title for full story.)

Tantalizing Beetle Fragrance Hastens The Destruction Of Invasive Shrub

By attaching small dollops of a waxy, putty-like substance containing the pheromone, the researchers found that they could more than double the number of tamarisk beetles congregating on the bushes, which often doubled the die-back of the plants as the beetles consumed the leaves and twigs. (Click on title for full story.)

96 percent Of Central African Forests At Risk If Elephant Poaching Continues

These changes will occur because elephants are ecological engineers that help create and maintain forest habitat by dispersing seeds, recycling and spreading nutrients, and clearing understories, (Click on title for full story.)

When Honey Bees Are Bad For Pollination And Bad For Other Bee Species

Even though overall, both bee taxa were equally effective pollinators, we suggest that honey-bees not only have the potential to reduce the amount of pollen available for plant reproduction, they also have the potential to reduce the amount of resources available to solitary bee communities. The results of this study have potential implications for the conservation of this highly endangered plant species if hives are permitted inside reserves, where the bulk of Oncocyclus iris species are protected (Click on title for full study.)

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.)

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.)