Category Archives: Plants & Animals

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.)

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.)

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.)

Move Over Birds, In Pacific Northwest Bears Are Primary Seed Dispersers

This is the first instance of a temperate plant being primarily dispersed by mammals through their gut, and suggests that bears may influence plant composition in the Pacific Northwest. It was well-known that bears were dispersing seeds through their scat, but it was not known that they were dispersing more seeds than birds, or the relative contribution of brown and black bears to seed dispersal, or whether the two species bears were eating berries at different times of the year. (Click on title for full story.)