Category Archives: Plants & Animals

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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.)

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Leaf-Cutter Ants Teach Their Nestmates Which Leaves To Avoid

Learning to avoid plants that are unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus does not necessarily need a direct assessment of the effects of that plant on fungus growth. Foragers that had experienced the negative effects of an unsuitable plant neither in the garden nor in the dump might be influenced in their choices by interactions with experienced nestmates. In this regard, we showed that non-confined foragers slightly but significantly decreased their acceptance for the specific plant that only their nestmates initially experienced during the confinement in the waste chamber. (CLick on title for full story.)

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Dinosaurs As Seed Dispersers: Fossilized Dino Gut Reveals All

Researchers identified these seeds as belonging to an ancient type of cycad, as well as from other plants. This is interesting, as it shows that some dinosaurs, much like modern mammals, might have been important in helping to disperse the seeds of plants along landscapes through plants’ ingenuity of exploiting the fact that dinosaurs like to poop from time to time. (Click on title for full story.)

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How Trees Determined The Outrageous Color Difference Between Male And Female Eclectus Parrots

Eclectus parrots are making important contributions to our understanding of the complex and subtle relationships between resource allocation, ecology and evolution. Additionally, plumage color is a powerful way to gain a clearer insight into the natural history of bird species. (Click on title for full story.)