Category Archives: Plants & Animals

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Planting For Monarchs: Helpful Or Really A Threat To The Species?

Planting milkweed in your garden is a really feel-good thing, but it’s not really the conservation solution, (Click on title for full story.)

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Crops Control Pests By Turning Them Into Cannibals

It is not unusual for insect pests to feast on each other as well as on their staple veg, but it’s now been shown that tomato plants can team up to directly push caterpillars into cannibalism. “This is a new ecological mechanism of induced resistance that effectively changes the behaviour of the insects,” (Click on title for full story.)

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Putting Defense First: Plants Reserve Richest Nectar For Defending Ants, Not For Pollinators

So-called ant-plants carefully manage the amount and sweetness of nectar produced on their flowers and leaves, a study shows.This enables them to attract ants – which aggressively deter herbivores – while also luring insects that will spread pollen. Click on title for full story.)

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Invasive Plants And Invasive Earthworms: An Insidious Partnership

Earthworms affect competition among plants both indirectly, by modifying habitat, and directly, by selectively eating roots, seeds and seedlings. The changes they make in forest habitats could favor invasive plants in several ways. (Click on title for full story.)

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Thorns And Spines Did Not Develop On Plants For The Reasons You Thought

The overwhelming bulk of the scientific literature on the ecological and evolutionary purpose of thorniness (or, to use biologists’ preferred terminology, spinescence) has focused on the hypothesis that mammalian herbivores are the main target. That may have been a mistake. Over the years, studies of how well sharp deterrents discourage hungry mammals have returned mixed results. (Click on title for full story.)

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The Goats In The Trees And The Seeds They Spit

For goats, the fruits are a tasty treat worth climbing up to 30 feet into the branches to obtain. But the goats don’t like the large seeds. Like cows, sheep, and deer, goats re-chew their food after fermenting it for a while in a specialized stomach. While ruminating over their cud, the goats spit out the argan nuts, delivering clean seeds to new ground, wherever the goat has wandered. Gaining some distance from the parent tree gives the seedling a better chance of survival. (Click on title for full story.)

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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.)