A Juanita Sphinx (Proserpinus juanita) caterpillar at Konza Prairie in northeastern Kansas. Caterpillars and other plant consumers prefer to eat plants with higher salt content. Photo credit: David Rintoul.

Herbivores and fungal pathogens take it with a grain of salt

Welti, Ellen; Kaspari, Michael Humans, caterpillars, and fungal pathogens agree, food tastes better with a pinch of salt. While humans are omnivores and can obtain sodium when eating animal products like meat and dairy, herbivores and detritivores have fewer salty menu items. This is why porcupines will eat backpackers’ sweaty hiking boots, deer come to salt licks, and sweat bees seek human perspiration. Unlike animals, … Continue reading Herbivores and fungal pathogens take it with a grain of salt

X-ray microscope close-up image of a grass leaf surface showing silicon deposits in yellow/red.

Caterpillar pests find leaf silicon particles less appealing than drought-induced changes to their host plants

Rebecca K. Vandegeer, Ximena Cibils-Stewart, Richard Wuhrer, Susan E. Hartley, David T. Tissue, Scott N. Johnson Farmers face many challenges in the management of their crops, including insect pests and drought that can both drastically reduce yields. Pest management using chemical pesticides can be costly, environmentally damaging and overuse can lead to pesticide resistance. An alternative management option may be to harness naturally occurring plant-based … Continue reading Caterpillar pests find leaf silicon particles less appealing than drought-induced changes to their host plants

The Green-crowned Brilliant (Heliodoxa jacula) occurring from Ecuador in the Andes to Costa Rica in Central America. Photo credit: Jesper Sonne

Hummingbird-plant interactions: bill morphology, biogeography and evolutionary history matters

Bo Dalsgaard, Pietro Kiyoshi Maruyama, Jesper Sonne, Katrine Hansen, Thais B. Zanata, Stefan Abrahamczyk, Ruben Alarcón, Andréa C. Araujo, Francielle P. Araújo, Silvana Buzato, Edgar Chávez-González, Aline G. Coelho, Peter A. Cotton, Román Díaz-Valenzuela, Maria F. Dufke, Paula L. Enríquez, Manoel Martins Dias Filho, Erich Fischer, Glauco Kohler, Carlos Lara, Flor Maria G. Las-Casas, Liliana Rosero Lasprilla, Adriana O. Machado, Caio G. Machado, María A. Maglianesi, Tiago S. Malucelli, Oscar H. Marín-Gómez, Vanessa Martínez-García, Severino Mendes de Azevedo-Júnior, Edvaldo Nunes da Silva Neto, Paulo E. Oliveira, Juan Francisco Ornelas, Raul Ortiz-Pulido, Ruth Partida-Lara, Blanca Itzel Patiño-González, Steffani Najara de Pinho … Continue reading Hummingbird-plant interactions: bill morphology, biogeography and evolutionary history matters

The experimental setup at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology that maintained 5 distinct nutrient treatments required an extensive amount of tubing. Photo credit: M. Fox

Strict coral hosts prevent their endosymbionts from over-indulging in nutrients

Michael D. Fox, Craig E. Nelson, Thomas A. Oliver, Zachary A. Quinlan, Kristina Remple, Jess Glanz, Jennifer E. Smith, Hollie M. Putnam Reef-building corals are very resourceful when it comes to acquiring the nutrients they need to survive. This is because most coral reefs occur in naturally nutrient-limited environments. One way that corals have adapted to this limitation is a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae … Continue reading Strict coral hosts prevent their endosymbionts from over-indulging in nutrients

Replicated monocultures of different herbaceous species at the Inner Mongolia Grassland Ecosystem Research Station (photo credit: Yongfei Bai)

Plant quantity and quality regulate arthropod diversity and abundance

Xiaoming Lu, Xuezhen Zhao, Taiki Tachibana, Kei Uchida, Takehiro Sasaki and Yongfei Bai Arthropods, including herbivores, decomposers, pollinators and predators, are important components of biodiversity in many ecosystems worldwide. They provide multiple ecosystem functions and services in terrestrial ecosystems. Ecologists have long recognized that plant species, as primary food producers and providers for the food web, greatly influence arthropod diversity in two major ways. First, … Continue reading Plant quantity and quality regulate arthropod diversity and abundance

White-lipped peccary

Frugivory regulates the nitrogen cycle in tropical forests

Nacho Villar, Claudia Paz, Valesca Zipparro, Sergio Nazareth, Leticia Bulascoschi, Elisabeth S. Bakker and Mauro Galetti Tropical forests play a critical role in the global nitrogen cycle. These forests are populated by many animals that feed mostly on fruits, including some of the largest mammals such as tapirs and peccaries. Now a new study in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil has found that these so … Continue reading Frugivory regulates the nitrogen cycle in tropical forests

Insect larvae use herbivore-induced plant volatiles as inducers to disarm plant chemical defense

Insect larvae use herbivore-induced plant volatiles as inducers to disarm plant chemical defense

Zhongxiang Sun, Yibin Lin, Rumeng Wang, Qilin Li, Qi Shi,Scott R. Baerson, Li Chen, Rensen Zeng and Yuanyuan Song Co-evolution of complex plant-insect interactions plays a vital role in structuring terrestrial ecosystems. Volatile chemicals emitted by plants play key roles in signaling between plants and other organisms. Upon herbivore attack, plants increase emission of herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) that protect plants by eliciting both direct … Continue reading Insect larvae use herbivore-induced plant volatiles as inducers to disarm plant chemical defense

The image shows the flowering of Halimium halimifolium (yellow flowers), Cistus crispus (pink flowers) and Lavandula stoechas (purple flowers) at the study site. Photo by P. L. Ortiz.

Are flowers honest in advertising their nutritious rewards to pollinator bees?

Ortiz, P.L, Fernández-Díaz, P., Pareja, D., Escudero, M. & Arista, M. Many plants depend on bees visiting their flowers for pollination and seed production, and bees depend on flowers for feeding. Therefore, flowers offer pollen and nectar as nutritious rewards to attract bees, and advertise them by visual signals such as flower size, shape and colour. In a community, different plant species may compete for … Continue reading Are flowers honest in advertising their nutritious rewards to pollinator bees?

Grasses bite back quickly: Anti-herbivore silicon defences are rapidly induced and affect carbon-based plant defences

Jamie M. Waterman, Casey R. Hall, Meena Mikhael, Christopher I. Cazzonelli, Susan E. Hartley and Scott N. Johnson Grasses accumulate lots of silicon in their leaves, which has anti-herbivore properties. Once accumulated, soluble silicon is deposited as silicon dioxide, which essentially fills the leaf with microscopic sand particles, making it unpalatable to insect herbivores. Grasses increase silicon accumulation following insect herbivory through stimulation of the … Continue reading Grasses bite back quickly: Anti-herbivore silicon defences are rapidly induced and affect carbon-based plant defences

Phylogenetically conserved host traits and local abiotic conditions jointly drive the geography of parasite intensity

Daniella LoScerbo, Maxwell J. Farrell, Julie Arrowsmith, Julia Mlynarek, Jean-Philippe Lessard Insect populations around the world are declining at an alarming rate, a phenomenon that has been coined “the insect apocalypse”. Several reasons have been proposed to explain this decline, one of which is the increased commonness of diseases, pathogens and parasites. In order to predict and manage these sources of mortality, it is crucial … Continue reading Phylogenetically conserved host traits and local abiotic conditions jointly drive the geography of parasite intensity