Wednesday October 17, 2018
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Beware Vegans! Flowering Plants ‘Hear’ When Eaten and Become Defensive, Says Research

Research Was Conducted by Playing Recordings of a Feeding Caterpillar to Flowering Plants

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Flowering plants
Flowering plants and trees hear when eaten and become defensive to the stimuli (representative image). Pixabay
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  • Flowering plants and trees hear when eaten and become defensive to the stimuli is found out in a study
  • The plants were made to hear vibrations of a feeding caterpillar and other was just sounds with same acoustics
  • The plants listening to caterpillar vibrations showed production of mustard oil which made the caterpillar crawl away

June 23, 2017: Plants and animals can be a source of energy for us but when it comes to defense, plants are not behind. In some cultures and communities, people have started choosing a vegan lifestyle as they are against animal slaughter. The viral videos on how animals are treated in slaughterhouses make people take up the vegan lifestyle. Most people think that plants do not have a conscience but research show otherwise.

Research show that plants do react to external stimuli and some research shows that they also communicate through chemical signals. They grow towards light, compete with other plants for water and nutrients and also signal for help when needed.

In recent news about science, a research published in Oecologia which was conducted in University of Missouri suggests that plants can hear when they are being attacked and can also become defensive from the attack. Heidi Appel (senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences) and Rex Crocoft (professor in the Division of Biological Sciences) carried out the research by conducting experiments in which they placed caterpillars on the flowering plants of cabbage and mustard.

ALSO READ: Find out why Hinduism always emphasizes on being a vegetarian

They put up a piece of reflective material and a laser on a leaf to measure its movement as a response from vibrations of feeding caterpillar and then they recorded the sounds of caterpillar feeding and played them to similar plants and on the other hand, they played sounds with similar acoustics but a different source to other plants.

The results showed that when caterpillars fed on both plants, the plant exposed to vibrations of caterpillars produced more mustard oils as it is unpleasant to caterpillars so they crawled away and those who were played sounds with similar acoustics showed no change in chemical response.

Appel and Crocoft said that more future researches would be upon how the vibrations are sensed by the plants and how plants would react to other vibrations to keep the pests away. Crocoft stated, ‘Plants have many ways to detect insect attack, but feeding vibrations are likely the fastest way for distant parts of the plant to perceive the attack and begin to increase their defenses.’

Appel said,’ ‘This research also opens the window of plant behavior a little wider, showing that plants have many of the same responses to outside influences that animals do, even though the responses look different.’

This research was part funded by National Science Foundation and it could prove to be a useful tool in agriculture!

– by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi

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Invasive Species May Not Be All Bad: Scientists

An active debate among biologists about the role of invasive species in a changing world is going on

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Invasive Species
The invasive European green crab is tearing down ecosystems in Newfoundland and building them up on Cape Cod. VOA

Off the shores of Newfoundland, Canada, an ecosystem is unraveling at the hands (or pincers) of an invasive crab.

Some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) to the south, the same invasive crab — the European green crab — is helping New England marshes rebuild.

Both cases are featured in a new study that shows how the impacts of these alien invaders are not always straightforward.

Around the world, invasive species are a major threat to many coastal ecosystems and the benefits they provide, from food to clean water. Attitudes among scientists are evolving, however, as more research demonstrates that they occasionally carry a hidden upside.

“It’s complicated,” said Christina Simkanin, a biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, “which isn’t a super-satisfying answer if you want a direct, should we keep it or should we not? But it’s the reality.”

Simkanin co-authored a new study showing that on the whole, coastal ecosystems store more carbon when they are overrun by invasive species.

Good news, crab news

Take the contradictory case of the European green crab. These invaders were first spotted in Newfoundland in 2007. Since then, they have devastated eelgrass habitats, digging up native vegetation as they burrow for shelter or dig for prey. Eelgrass is down 50 percent in places the crabs have moved into. Some sites have suffered total collapse.

That’s been devastating for fish that spend their juvenile days among the seagrass. Where the invasive crabs have moved in, the total weight of fish is down tenfold.

The loss of eelgrass also means these underwater meadows soak up less planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the same crab is having the opposite impact.

Off the coast of New England, fishermen have caught too many striped bass and blue crabs. These species used to keep native crab populations in check. Without predators to hold them back, native crabs are devouring the marshes.

But the invasive European green crab pushes native crabs out of their burrows. Under pressure from the invader, native crabs are eating less marsh grass. Marshes are recovering, and their carbon storage capacity is growing with them.

Invasive species
In this May 8, 2016 photo, eelgrass grows in sediment at Lowell’s Cove in Harpswell, Maine. VOA

Carbon repositories

Simkanin and colleagues compiled these studies and more than 100 others to see whether the net impact on carbon storage has been positive or negative.

They found that the ones overtaken by invasive species held about 40 percent more carbon than intact habitats.

They were taken by surprise, she said, because “non-native species are thought of as being negative so often. And they do have detrimental impacts. But in this case, they seem to be storing carbon quicker.”

At the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center where she works, the invasive reed Phragmites has been steadily overtaking a marsh scientists are studying.

Phragmites grows much taller, denser and with deeper roots than the native marsh grass it overruns.

But those same traits that make it a powerful invader also mean it stores more carbon than native species.

“Phragmites has been referred to as a Jekyll and Hyde species,” she said.

Not all invaded ecosystems stored more carbon. Invaded seagrass habitats generally lost carbon, and mangroves were basically unchanged. But on balance, gains from marsh invaders outweighed the others.

Invasive species
Phragmites plants growing on Staten Island draft in a breeze in the Oakwood Beach neighborhood of Staten Island. VOA

Not a lot of generalities

To be clear, Simkanin said the study is not suggesting it’s always better to let the invaders take over; but, it reflects an active debate among biologists about the role of invasive species in a changing world.

“One of the difficult things in the field of invasion biology is, there aren’t a lot of generalities,” said Brown University conservation biologist Dov Sax, who was not involved with the research. “There’s a lot of nuance.”

The prevailing view among biologists is that non-native species should be presumed to be destructive unless proven otherwise.

When 19 biologists wrote an article in 2011 challenging that view, titled, “Don’t judge species on their origins,” it drew a forceful rebuke from 141 other experts.

Sax said the argument is likely to become more complicated in the future.

Also Read: Climate Change Not A Hoax: Trump

“In a changing world, with a rapidly changing climate, we do expect there to be lots of cases where natives will no longer be as successful in a region. And some of the non-natives might actually step in and play some of those ecosystem services roles that we might want,” he said.

“In that context, what do we do? I definitely don’t have all the answers.” (VOA)