Category Archives: Plants & Animals

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.)

African Savanna Trees Protected From Elephant Damage By Beehives

Wire-netting protected trees against bark-stripping but did not prevent elephants from breaking branches. Beehives proved to be the more effective mitigation method for elephant impact on large trees, although the presence of beehives did not prevent elephants from moving through the study site. The financial cost and maintenance required for the beehive mitigation method are greater than that of wire-netting, but the beehives can provide honey as an additive benefit on a small-scale usage level. (Click on title for full report.)

Plants, Choosing Adaptations That Will Lessen Reproduction, Benefit Their Community

“We looked at how chemical defense cues from plants, meant to deter herbivores, can also deter pollinators, The surprising model result is that while this can lead to fitness losses for individuals, the population effects can be positive for pollinators and plants under some circumstances.” (Click on title for full story.)

When Both Caterpillars And Aphids Attack Plants, The Plant Has To Make Defense Choices

Scientists describe two surprising discoveries: that plants prioritise the protection of flowers over leaves, and that simultaneous attack by aphids, caterpillars and bacteria leaves plants vulnerable to aphids but more protected from caterpillars. (Click on title for full story.)

When Trees Have Ants As Defenders Their Partners May Be Heroes Or Something Much Less

Each colony could be characterized by a behavioral type score along a docile-aggressive axis, with higher scoring colonies being more active, responsive, and aggressive than those with lower scores. Furthermore, colony behavioral types were correlated with their host plants’ health such that trees containing more aggressive colonies also exhibited less leaf damage. (Click on title for full story.)

Mysterious Pollination Story Of Otherwise Common Houseplant Discovered

The mysterious flowers of Aspidistra elatior are found on the southern Japanese island of Kuroshima. Until recently, scientists thought that A. elatior has the most unusual pollination ecology among all flowering plants, being pollinated by slugs and amphipods. However, direct observation of their ecosystem has revealed that they are mainly pollinated by fungus gnats, probably thanks to their resemblance to mushrooms. (Click on title for full story.)