Toxin tolerance across landscapes: Ecological exposure not a prerequisite

M. Denise Dearing, Teri J. Orr, Dylan M. Klure, Robert Greenhalgh, Sara B. Weinstein, Tess Stapleton, KayLene Y.H. Yamada, Madeleine D. Nelson, Margaret. L. Doolin, Danny P. Nielsen, Marjorie D. Matocq, Michael D. Shapiro This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. Most plants produce toxic chemicals to deter herbivores from feeding on them.  Plant chemistry is … Continue reading Toxin tolerance across landscapes: Ecological exposure not a prerequisite

Schematic diagram of bruchid beetles on a lima bean pod and a parasitoid on a lima bean seed. Drawing by Thomas Degen.

Bean plants growing from seeds eaten by beetles are less impacted when beetles are parasitized by parasitic wasps

Maximilien A.C. Cuny, Diana la Forgia, Gaylord A. Desurmont, Carlos Bustos-Segura, Gaetan Glauser and Betty Benrey This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. Seeds are often eaten by insects, such as tiny bruchid beetles that glue their eggs onto the surface of the seed. Once the eggs hatch, the beetle larvae bury into the seed where … Continue reading Bean plants growing from seeds eaten by beetles are less impacted when beetles are parasitized by parasitic wasps

Overview of plants grown in the cage with grasshoppers. PLS photo credit: Liu lab (www.plantecology.cn/)

Herbivory may mediate the effects of nutrient fluctuations on plant invasion

Yanjun Li, Yingzhi Gao, Mark van Kleunen, Yanjie Liu This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. It is frequently assumed that environmental variability could promote alien plant invasion, because the fluctuating resource hypothesis predicts that habitats with increased variability in resource availability will be more easily invaded than those with less variable resource conditions. Many studies … Continue reading Herbivory may mediate the effects of nutrient fluctuations on plant invasion

A caterpillar feeding on one of the experimental plants; yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Insect feeding leaves a detectable footprint in the soil that causes plants that grow in it to hide belowground

Robin Heinen, Madhav P. Thakur, Jetske R. Hiddes De Fries, Katja Steinauer, Simon Vandenbrande, Renske Jongen and T. Martijn Bezemer This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article. Read the article in full here. Plants and soil organisms live in close relationships and strongly depend on each other. Plants release sugars and dead material into the soil, which serve as an … Continue reading Insect feeding leaves a detectable footprint in the soil that causes plants that grow in it to hide belowground

A specialist leaf beetle, Gastrophysa atrocyanea, feeding on bitter dock, Rumex obtusifolius. Photograph by Haruna Ohsaki.

Novel mechanism in resource concentration hypotheses: the density of host plants alters quality of food for leaf beetles

This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article. Read the research in full here. Haruna Ohsaki, Atsuko Miyagi, Maki Kawai-Yamada, Akira Yamawo Understanding how the distribution of organisms is determined is one of the goals of ecologists. For plant-eating insects (herbivores), it was thought that their distributions depend on the density of the host plants. The resource concentration hypothesis, one of … Continue reading Novel mechanism in resource concentration hypotheses: the density of host plants alters quality of food for leaf beetles

A pseudo-coloured X-ray map (200x) of a cotton bollworm mandible indicating A) intact (red) or B) degraded incisors as a result of feeding on plants A) without or B) with silicon supply. The incisors are the effective cutting edge of the caterpillar’s mandibles; thus, an important component of their feeding. Image courtesy of Richard Wuhrer, Advanced Materials Characterisation Facility, Western Sydney University.

Silicon or symbionts? Grasses use both types of anti-herbivore defence

Cibils-Stewart, Ximena; Mace, Wade J. ; Popay, Alison; Lattanzi, Fernando ; Hartley, Susan; Hall, Casey; Powell, Jeff; Johnson, Scott Read the research in full here In addition to sustaining wild and domesticated grazing animals, forage grasses are crucial for carbon sequestration, improving water quality, reducing soil erosion and supporting biodiversity. As with all plants, grasses are attacked by many insect pests, including the cotton bollworm … Continue reading Silicon or symbionts? Grasses use both types of anti-herbivore defence

Network of plant-herbivore interactions used in our study. Orange nodes are plant species, green nodes are herbivore species. Lines indicate associations. CC-BY-SA 4.0 Patrick Strutzenberger.

Which species of caterpillars feed on a certain plant species is determined by the herbivore’s evolutionary history

Patrick Strutzenberger & Konrad Fiedler Read the full article here Insect herbivores have been an active area of research in ecology and evolutionary biology since at least the 1950’s. One of the main questions is how the complement of herbivores on a certain plant species has evolved. We now have extensive knowledge of how plants defend themselves against herbivores with chemical defenses. Many plants have … Continue reading Which species of caterpillars feed on a certain plant species is determined by the herbivore’s evolutionary history

“Example of floral scent extraction and pollinator variation in geographically separated populations of Anthyllis vulneraria”. Photo credits: Natasha de Manincor

Geographical floral scent variation is species-dependent and linked to variation in pollinator community composition

Natasha de Manincor, Benjamin Andreu, Bruno Buatois, Hineiti Lou Chao, Nina Hautekèete, François Massol, Yves Piquot, Bertrand Schatz, Eric Schmitt and Mathilde Dufay Read the research in full here Flower scents are known to be a major adaptation of plants to attract insect pollinators. Yet, there is still little information as to how these scents vary between plants of the same or different species in … Continue reading Geographical floral scent variation is species-dependent and linked to variation in pollinator community composition

Photo of the study area showing semi-natural dry grassland of the Euganen Hills. Photo taken by Edy Fantinato

Patterns of pollination interactions at community-level are related to the type and quantity of floral resources

Edy Fantinato, Judit Sonkoly, Péter Török & Gabriella Buffa Read the article in full here Most flowering plant species are pollinated by animals, and especially insects. Plants have evolved a series of advertising signals, like colourful flowers and scents, and food rewards like nectar or even pollen itself, to persuade pollinators that their flowers are worth a visit. But what happens when different plant species … Continue reading Patterns of pollination interactions at community-level are related to the type and quantity of floral resources

A harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex subdentatus) attempting to dislodge a mucilage anchored seed (Gilia leptantha). Photo taken by Eric LoPresti.

Seeds glue themselves to the ground to escape seed predation

Vincent S. Pan, Marshall McMunn, Richard Karban, Jake Goidell, Marjorie G. Weber, Eric F. LoPresti The seeds or fruits of thousands of plant species produce a sticky substance called “seed mucilage” when wetted. You may have seen seed mucilage before if you have encountered chia (Salvia hispanica), flax (Linum usitatissimum), or psyllium powder (Plantago ovata). Even though seed mucilage is often treated as a single … Continue reading Seeds glue themselves to the ground to escape seed predation