Category Archives: Plants & Animals

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Birds Select Best Trees To Use As Refrigerators For Winter Food Storage

Another interesting element to note is that grey jays cache perishable food items into cracks in tree bark during the summer and autumn months. In fact, grey jays are the only bird species that we know about that routinely cache large amounts of perishable food items for long periods of time. How do these food items survive the warm summer months until the freezing temperatures of winter, when the birds consume their caches? Contrary to what you might expect; these birds are not merely caching food so they can survive harsh winters: grey jays nest and raise their chicks in the dead of winter, too. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Why Would A Perfectly Nice Carnivorous Plant Subsist On Feces Instead Of Meat?

Pitcher plants grow on nutrient-poor soils, but whereas N. rafflesiana copes with this lack of nutrients by using fluid-filled pitchers to catch insect prey, N. hemsleyana has abandoned carnivory in favour of a unique and intimate relationship with the woolly bat. To provide the bat with an ideal roost, the pitchers of N. hemsleyana have evolved to perfectly fit the bat’s body. Unlike other pitcher plants they contain very little fluid. And most striking of all, the backwall of the pitcher forms a parabolic dish that aids the bat’s echolocation. In return for its roost, the bat hunts and pre-digests the insects, depositing them as faeces in the pitcher. To measure the costs and benefits of this mutualism, Schöner selected plants from both species in the field. When they produced new pitchers, she blocked them with cotton wool and cling-film to prevent bats or insects from entering. (Click on title for full story.)

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The Unsung Seed Disperser: The Galápagos Land Iguana

We knew that female iguanas on this island cover large distances, around 10 kilometres, and climb up to 1,500 metres of altitude to lay their eggs at the island’s volcanic crater. The researchers were able to collect 160 iguana faeces samples. They were able to identify 5,705 seeds from 32 plant species. (Click on title for full story.)

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African Farmers Tend Cacao Planted By Wild Chimpanzees

This research has highlighted the possibility that the dispersal of crops by animals at other sites has the potential to positively impact the ability of wildlife to coexist in human-impacted habitats, especially if farmers gain economic benefits through the wildlife’s dispersal of crops. (Click on title for full story.)

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Invasion Of Wild Shrubs Tied To Extermination Of Wild Dingoes

Taken together, our results suggest a cascading effect. A loss of dingoes allows foxes and feral cats to thrive and prey on the small mammals that eat the shrub seeds. Fewer small mammals means the shrubs can spread. This is the first study to link shrub encroachment to loss of an apex predator like the dingo, and it could explain shrub spread in many other areas around the globe. Rewilding initiatives that aim to conserve or re-establish small mammal populations could help stop the invasion of these pervasive weeds in Australia, (Click on title for full story.)

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Butterfly Populations Damaged By Increased Invasive Plants Richness

Our results also highlight the potential cascading effect of plant invasions on multiple trophic levels. Indeed, invasive plant spread does not only lead to a decline in the phylogenetic diversity of plants, but also to that of butterfly communities. This suggests that other herbivorous insect groups, such as beetles or flies, are likely affected similarly by invasive plants, which calls for repeated analyses of diverse insect groups and potential effects on higher trophic levels (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

The First Farmers On Fiji Were Ants. And They And Their Epiphytic Partners Cannot Survive Apart.

Many species of ants live in symbiosis with plants, and both partners in these relationships profit. One of the most remarkable of these interactions is that between the ant species Philidris nagasau and at least six members of the plant genus Squamellaria on the islands of Fiji, which is the subject of a new study (Click on title for full story.)

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Pollinators… Under The Sea

Birds do it, bees do it, but until recently, no marine critters were thought to do it. Pollination, that is. Tides and currents do a great job of sweeping pollen from marine plant to plant, so scientists thought underwater pollinators were unnecessary. But now, researchers have discovered a species of Caribbean seagrass, Thalassia testudinum, that can be pollinated by zooplankton and bottom-dwelling invertebrates. (Click on title for full story.)

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As Climate Change Forces Marine Life To Relocate, Kelp Forests Suffer

As a result of climate change, warm-water fish species are shifting their range and invading temperate areas. Our results show that over-grazing by these fish can have a profound impact, leading to kelp deforestation and barren reefs. This is the first study demonstrating that the effects of warming in kelp forests are two-fold: higher temperatures not only have a direct impact on seaweeds, they also have an indirect impact by increasing the appetite of fish consumers, which can devour these seaweeds to the point of completely denuding the ocean floor. Increases in the number of plant-eating fish because of warming poses a significant threat to kelp-dependent ecosystems both in Australia and around the globe ((Click on title for full story.)

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The Rarer The Better: Birds Prefer Fruit Of Uncommon Tree Species

“It appears that fruit-eating birds are drawn to rare species, and this behavior can affect the reproductive potential of plants in a way that favors species of lesser abundance, When faced with a buffet of food choices, including millions of fruits from common plant species and perhaps only a few hundred or thousand fruits from rare species, birds select the rare fruits in proportions that are higher than what are represented in nature.” (Click on title for full story.)