Navigation Links
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, especially native species. Those findings are among the most rigorous scientific validations of the national and state trend toward spending public dollars on buying and preserving "green" corridors connecting woods or wetlands in urban or rural areas.

In the new paper, the researchers report the results of research aimed at learning how corridors affect plant species with innately different abilities to get around.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the scientists found that wind-borne plants and bird-dispersed plants colonize wildlife habitats connected by corridors more quickly and at farther distances than they do isolated habitats. The surprise was that the same is true for what the scientists consider "unassisted" plants, or those with no obvious means of moving their seeds.

The result left the researchers puzzled. "We come right out and say in the paper that we don't understand this," Levey said.

Physical forces clearly aren't adequate to cause the phenomenon, the paper notes.

"Gravity dispersal from low-growing shrubs, forbs and grasses, which typically moves a seed no more than a few meters per year, cannot account for the rapid colonization of connected patches 150 meters distant," the paper says.

With no obvious alternative, Levey said one possible explanation is that the plants' seeds aren't as unassisted as they appear. For example, it's possible that herbivores eat the seeds, even if they are not recognized as normal forage. "My hunch is that these plants are browsed by deer that are really after the leaves," Levey said. "They eat the seeds along with the leaves, and then defecate the seeds somewhere else."

Perhaps improbably, given the randomness of deer defecation, the researchers are testing this hypothesis.

Caleb Hickman, a graduate student in the Washington University Ecology, Evolution, and Population Biology Program, has collected fecal samples left behind not only by deer, but also by a variety of mammals at Savannah River experimental sites.

He is planting the samples in soil in a Washington University greenhouse. The goal: to see if previously classified "unassisted" plant species seedlings emerge.

That would prove that like many teenagers, plants are much more creative about getting around than most people suspect.


'/>"/>

Contact: Doug Levey
dlevey@ufl.edu
352-392-9169
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Political participation is partially rooted in genetic inheritance
2. Plants display molecular amnesia
3. Missouri Botanical Garden publishes first catalogue of plants of the Southern Cone
4. Solar-powered sea-slugs live like plants, prof says
5. Key link in how plants adapt to climate discovered by Stanford researchers
6. Plants grow bigger and more vigorously through changes in their internal clocks
7. Climate change opens new avenue for spread of invasive plants
8. New gene-silencing pathway found in plants
9. UD researchers show that plants can accumulate nanoparticles in tissues
10. TECNALIA investigates advanced biomaterials to make more reliable and hardwearing medical implants
11. The bonsai effect: Wounded plants make jasmonates, inhibiting cell division, stunting growth
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/24/2016)... Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled technology to leaders of the medical ... premium product recently added to the range of products distributed by Ampronix. ... ... ... Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... , May 20, 2016  VoiceIt is ... partnership with VoicePass. By working together, ... experience.  Because VoiceIt and VoicePass take slightly different ... engines increases both security and usability. ... excitement about this new partnership. "This ...
(Date:5/16/2016)... 2016   EyeLock LLC , a market leader ... of an IoT Center of Excellence in ... development of embedded iris biometric applications. EyeLock,s ... and security with unmatched biometric accuracy, making it the ... DNA. EyeLock,s platform uses video technology to deliver a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... Lajollacooks4u has ... and has consistently been rated one of its top attractions. Fortune 500 companies, ... to participate in a unique and intimate team-building experience. , Each event kicks off ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... AZ (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... ... Dr. Michael Fitzmaurice recently became double board-certified in surgery and surgery of the ... 2015. Dr. Fitzmaurice is no stranger to going above and beyond in his ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... May 25, 2016 , ... WEDI, the nation’s leading authority ... announced that Charles W. Stellar has been named by the WEDI Board of Directors ... 2016. As an executive leader with more than 35 years of experience in healthcare, ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... ... May 24, 2016 , ... Cell therapies for a range ... by research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) that yielded a newly patented method ... , The novel method, developed by WPI faculty members Raymond Page, PhD, professor ...
Breaking Biology Technology: