Our field experiment. Photo Credit: Robert Buchkowski

Interactions between animals eating plants and those decomposing plants

Robert W. Buchkowski and Oswald J. Schmitz Read the research in full here It can be difficult to understand ecosystems because of all the possible connections between organisms. Animals which might never encounter each other can interact through shared partners. For example, detritivores—animals that eat decomposing material—can help fertilize plants and indirectly benefit the herbivores that eat them, while the herbivores might benefit decomposers when … Continue reading Interactions between animals eating plants and those decomposing plants

Lymantria dispar is one of the most destructive invasive insects in North American. We show that defoliation by this insect can kill oak trees by draining the trees’ energy reserves. Photo credit: Nathan Oalican.

Trees can starve to death from insect defoliation

Barker Plotkin, Audrey; Blumstein, Meghan; Laflower, Danelle; Pasquarella, Valerie; Chandler,Jennifer; Elkinton, Joseph S.; Thompson, Jonathan R. Invasive insects are a major threat to forests, and the Northeastern US is an invasion hotspot. It seems like every tree has a bug, and for oak, it’s Lymantria dispar. A recent severe outbreak of this insect killed thousands of acres of oaks across southern New England. But we … Continue reading Trees can starve to death from insect defoliation

Mallotus japonicus sapling with many ants attracted to the extrafloral nectaries on the leaves. Photo: Akira Yamawo

Species diversity and biological trait function: Effectiveness of ant–plant mutualism decreases as ant species diversity increases

Akira Yamawo, Nobuhiko Suzuki, and Jun Tagawa The compositions of communities of interacting species in different regions often differ. In each region, organisms interact with multiple species, and community composition may alter the outcome of both species interactions and trait evolution. In this study, we investigated relationships between the number of ant species in a community (ant species richness) and the outcomes of an ant–plant … Continue reading Species diversity and biological trait function: Effectiveness of ant–plant mutualism decreases as ant species diversity increases

Confocal laser scanning micrographs (maximum intensity projections) of butterfly proboscises.

Butterflies that visit flowers have mouthparts with adaptations to help reach nectar

Lehnert, Matthew; Johnson, Daytona; Wu, Jianing; Sun, Yu; Fonseca, Rena; Michels, Jan; Shell, Jamie; Reiter, Kristen Butterflies are an important group of insect pollinators that use their elongated mouthparts to feed on nectar when visiting flowers. Not all butterflies feed from flowers and those that feed on other fluids, such as tree sap, have mouthparts with a brushy tip that make it function like a … Continue reading Butterflies that visit flowers have mouthparts with adaptations to help reach nectar

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

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

How far can fish transport plant seeds?

Van Leeuwen, Casper; Mulder, Andrea; van Aalderen, Roland Seed dispersal by animals is important for the transport of plant seeds to new locations. Many animals ingest, transport and defecate viable seeds – which can lead to colonization in fragmented habitats, expand plant ranges in response to global changes, or ensure space for a next generation. Many fruit-eating birds and mammals are well-known seed dispersers, but … Continue reading How far can fish transport plant seeds?

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

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