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Rooted plants move mysteriously down greenways, scientists say
Date:12/3/2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. The wild pea pod is big and heavy, with seemingly little prayer of escaping the shade of its parent plant.

And yet, like a grounded teenager who knows where the car keys are hidden, it manages if it has a reasonable chance of escape.

University of Florida researchers working at the world's largest experimental landscape devoted to wildlife corridors greenways that link woods or other natural areas have discovered the pea and similar species share, given a clear shot, a mysterious ability for mobility. Though their seeds are neither dispersed by birds nor borne by the wind, they are nevertheless far more likely to slalom down corridors than slog through woods.

The findings are revealed in a paper that appears this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Corridors surprisingly benefit pretty much everything, including species that have no obvious mechanism for getting around in the first place," said Doug Levey, a UF professor of zoology and one of six authors of the paper.

Movement is a big challenge for the vast majority of plants, rooted as they are in the ground. Some overcome it by making seeds gobbled by birds, then defecated at points unknown. Other plants have evolved light seeds, or aerodynamically adept ones, designed to be ferried hither and thither in the wind.

But many plants produce seeds with no seeming mode of transport, suggesting, for those species, a measured march rather than a rapid run.

And yet

Levey and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis and North Carolina State University have spent the past eight years studying how corridors affect plants and animals at a massive experimental site at the Savannah River Site National Environmental Research Park on the South Carolina-Georgia state line.

In past papers, they have reported that corridors appear to help both wildlife and plants
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Contact: Doug Levey
dlevey@ufl.edu
352-392-9169
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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