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Poorly camouflaged insects can kick off a cascade of ecological impacts, new CU-Boulder study finds
Date:10/21/2013

re common on chamise and vice versa.

In a second experiment, the researchers artificially stocked the needle-like chamise with the different variants of walking sticks. A month later, they sampled the shrubs and found that more striped walking sticks survived than un-striped walking sticks. They also found that chamise stocked with striped walking sticks were home to a greater number of arthropods as well as a greater variety of arthropods than shrubs stocked with un-striped walking sticks. Finally, there were more leaves damaged by hungry insects on chamise stocked with striped walking sticks.

The scientists surmised that the differences were caused by scrub jays and other birds that feed on walking sticks. A group of easy-to-spot walking sticks could attract birds, which might then feed on other arthropods as well. To test their idea, the researchers repeated the experiment, but in this case, they caged some of the shrubs to keep the birds from feeding. As they expected, the caged chamise stocked with un-striped walking sticks did not have the same drop in numbers as they did when the bushes were not caged.

"Studies of how rapid evolution can affect the ecology of populations, communities and ecosystems are difficult to accomplish and therefore rare," Farkas said. "We're hoping our research helps biologists to appreciate the extent of dynamic interplay between ecology and evolution, and that it can be used by applied scientists to combat emerging threats to biodiversity, ecosystem services, and food security."


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Contact: Tim Farkas
timothy.farkas@sheffield.ac.uk
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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