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ScienceShot: Don't Go Into the Light

20 June 2012 4:16 pm
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The Chilean wineberry has to make a tough choice: soak up the sun and chance being eaten, or shun the light and risk starving to death. The quick-growing plant (Aristotelia chilensis) lives in a warm, rainy environment where it needs to make big leaves to catch the sun's rays, but also where slugs, weevils, and other herbivores are just waiting to eat its leaves up. To figure out how the wineberry deals with this conflict, researchers grew its seedlings under conditions where there was either an abundance of sunlight or lots of shade, and also in the presence or absence of herbivores. Without predators present, the plants grew to have the same size and amount of leaves. However, when slugs and weevils were around, shaded seedlings produced much smaller leaves. In essence, the team reports online this month in The American Naturalist, the Chilean wineberry has found a compromise: Grow your leaves big enough so that they can catch light, but not so big that they become the perfect meal.

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