Category Archives: Plants & Animals

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Do Trees React Differently To Defoliation By Herbivores?

These results can help us assess the mortality risk of trees during a defoliation event using traits such as leaf longevity and how carbohydrates are stored in the species. Such information could then be used in models of tree growth and survival to predict which trees and forests may need protective measures (e.g. biocontrol of pests, pesticide application) in advance of a defoliation event. (Click on title for full story.)

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Looking To Lizards To Reveal Grasslands’ History

Since Ophisops are restricted to grasslands, understanding the evolution of these lizards allowed the researchers to test two hypotheses related to the origins of Indian grasslands. The first hypothesis was that if Indian grasslands expanded at the same time as grasslands globally – which was four million to eight million years ago – the spread of Ophisops would date back to around roughly the same time period. The second hypothesis was if grasslands expanded only when humans started cultivation in the last 10,000 years to 20,000 years, Ophisops would have only spread to areas cleared by humans in the more recent past. (Click on title for full story.)

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Does Sunflower Pollen Protect Specialist Bees From Parasites?

The authors conclude that specialization on sunflower pollen confers anti-parasite benefits; this may help explain the frequent evolution of specialization on sunflower pollen among bees. More generally, the results help explain why animals often evolve a taste for “nasty” foods. (Click on title for full story.)

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How The First Gardeners Adapted To New Environments: The Story Of Leaf-Cutter Ants

“If you had X-ray vision and you could look out in a wet, new-world tropical forest, you’d see the entire underground just peppered with garden chambers,” (Click on title for full story.)

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Furthest Seed Dispersal Award Goes To…. African Savanna Elephants!

The African savanna elephant holds the prize for largest living terrestrial animal, and now it apparently just set another land record: the longest distance mover of seeds. The pachyderms can transport seeds up to 65 kilometers, according to a study of elephant dung in South Africa. That’s 30 times farther than savanna birds take seeds, and it indicates that elephants play a significant role in maintaining the genetic diversity of trees on the savanna. (Click on title for full story.)

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Can The Devastation By Bark Beetles Be Stopped With A Sound Recording?

Bark beetles — whose numbers have reached outbreak levels throughout the West — are hard to keep away from trees. One solution may be to confuse them by playing their own sounds, distorted into a maddening cacophony, back at them. (Click on title for full story.)

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The Millipede With A Garden On Its Back

We have reported here the first known associations of bryophytes with Diplopoda, and one of the few with Arthropoda. It is also, so far as we know, the first reported case of tropical bryophyte entomochory, in which spores and propagules that fell on the backs of diplopods germinated and produced small plants (Click on title for full story.)

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China’s Massive Reforestation Being Undone By Small Forest Animals

Squirrels rarely eat bark in this way in untouched, natural forests where they live on fruits, seeds, insects and bird eggs, Fu Yiqiang, a zoologist at Leshan Normal University said. However, commercial forests, which are usually monocultures made up of one kind of tree, do not have a thriving ecosystem which can provide squirrels with a diverse diet, which leads to them mainly eating bark for sustenance, Fu said. Fu added that these kinds of forests also lack predators, so the squirrel population often explodes in size. (Click on title for full story.)

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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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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.)