Navigation Links
Elephant engineers
Date:1/28/2008

It is like the premise of a popular home improvement show: in the before photos, the surroundings are undesirable and in the after shot theres lots of attractive spaces to grab a meal, start a family and relax in seclusion from lifes stresses. The difference here is that the potential new homeowner is a lizard and the renovations come -- not from a sophisticated Manhattan designer -- but instead from a herd of elephants. An examination of the connections between elephants and lizards appears this month in the journal Ecology, where a researcher reports that the elephants eating habits have a strong influence on the lizards habitat choices. The results demonstrate an important and little understood aspect of ecosystem engineering, and may help land managers working on wildlife refuges in Africa.

Working at the Mpala Research Center in Kenya between 2004 and 2007, the author of the report, Robert M. Pringle of Stanford University, found that Kenya dwarf geckos (Lygodactylus keniensis) showed a strong preference for trees which had been damaged by browsing elephants (Loxodontia africana). In fact, the local lizard population increased proportionally with the number of damaged trees. By contrast, lizards were virtually absent from undamaged trees in the same study area.

Further investigations revealed that the preference was due to hiding places which were incidentally created by the elephants activities.

Pringles results are important from a theoretical as well as management standpoint. Ecosystem engineering -- the idea that activities of one kind of animal can create habitat for other animals -- is a relatively new concept, having emerged only about 15 years ago. When examining such engineers, ecologists would like to predict whether their activities will have a positive or negative impact on the abundance of other species in the same ecosystem. In the past, some scientists have hypothesized that when the engineers (such as the elephants in this case) make a habitat more complex, that habitat becomes more appealing to a larger variety of animals. This research indicates that may indeed be the case in African savannas.

Pringle notes that elephants really shake up the savanna landscape. The level of disturbance from a feeding herd is almost akin to that of a tornado touching down; trees and shrubs are splintered, cracked, and fissured and large branches are strewn all over the ground.

The ripped up trees are like labyrinths compared to the pristine trees, which helps boost lizard densities, says Pringle. This may be because the twisted crevices in the elephant-damaged trees provide shelter from predators and the harsh arid environment, or because they provide suitable spots for female lizards to lay eggs.

A better understanding of the elephants influence on their ecosystem is a particularly pressing need in this region. There are concerns in many parts of Africa that poaching may wipe out the large animals on lands where they are not strictly protected. Elephants, however, eat a tremendous amount, and their eating habits can be especially destructive in smaller tracts of land. Since they have no real natural predators besides humans, they can sometimes eat themselves out of house and home in the areas where they are protected from hunters.

Because of these management dilemmas, finding an optimum number of elephants for any given refuge or wildlife area has become a hot topic. By gaining a better understanding of ecosystem engineering and the effects that large herbivores have on other species, researchers may gain more insight into how the entire savanna ecosystem works.

If you have no elephants, says Pringle, then youre missing this powerful source of disturbance, since their activities can provide other species with a chance to thrive. On the other hand, if you have too many elephants, then they can actually suppress the abundance of smaller animals by reducing their habitat and out-competing them for food.

Biodiversity, the researcher says, may well be greatest in the middle ranges of elephant abundance.


'/>"/>

Contact: Nadine Lymn
nadine@esa.org
202-833-8773
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Social standing influences elephant movement
2. Elephantnose fish see with their chin
3. Male elephants get photo IDs from scientists
4. Penn engineers create carbon nanopipettes that are smaller than cells and measure electric current
5. President honors mentors of scientists and engineers
6. Nanoengineers mine tiny diamonds for drug delivery
7. Engineers study brain folding in higher mammals
8. Institution of Chemical Engineers chooses Elsevier as publishing partner
9. CU researcher engineers sorghum that grows in poisonous soils
10. Boston University biomedical engineers find chink in bacterias armor
11. UCR engineers to develop new tool to measure how environmental exposures affect health
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/6/2017)... 6, 2017 Mintigo , the ... announced Predictive Sales Coach TM , its new ... intelligence into Salesforce. This unique AI application will ... organizations with deep knowledge of their customers and ... engagement. Predictive Sales Coach extends Mintigo,s existing customer ...
(Date:3/2/2017)... -- Australian stem cell and regenerative medicine company, ... agreement with the Monash Lung Biology Network, a consortia ... Department of Pharmacology at Monash University, Melbourne ... support the use of Cymerus™ mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) ... is a chronic, long term lung condition recognised by ...
(Date:2/28/2017)...  EyeLock LLC, ein marktführendes Unternehmen im Bereich ... Lösung zur Iris-Erkennung auf der neuesten Mobilplattform ... dem Mobile World Congress 2017 (27. Februar ... 3, Stand 3E10, vorstellen. Der ... – eine Kombination aus Hardware, Software und ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:3/24/2017)...   Sienna Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. , a privately held, ... Richard Peterson will join the company as ... who brings more than two decades of global financial ... retiring at the end of April but will continue ... Sienna from Novan, Inc., where he served as Chief ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... ... 2017 , ... AxioMed president, Jake Lubinski, describes the AxioMed ... deformed, which is identical to how the human discs work to distribute force. ... to its natural state along a hysteresis curve, exactly like a healthy human ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... DUBLIN , Mar 23, 2017 ... "Biorefinery Products: Global Markets" report to their offering. ... The ... from $466.6 Billion in 2016 at a CAGR of 8.9%, ... of energetic and non-energetic bioproducts into seven major product segments: ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... March 23, 2017  SeraCare Life Sciences, ... in vitro diagnostics manufacturers and clinical laboratories, ... first multiplexed Inherited Cancer reference material ... by next-generation sequencing (NGS). The Seraseq™ Inherited Cancer ... input from industry experts to validate the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: