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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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ScienceShot: Scared Earthworms Help Plants Grow
17 July 2013 5:15 pm
A frightened earthworm is a plant's best friend. Researchers testing the ecological role of the earthworm Pheretima aspergillum (pictured above) in an alpine meadow have found that when a beetle that preys on earthworms is present, plants grew more. The presence of the beetles also increased the quality of the deeper soil, reported this month in the Journal of Animal Ecology. When beetles were present, earthworms migrated to the deeper soil, probably to avoid the beetles' foraging range. The earthworms broke up this deeper soil, and nutrients and water moved into it. The researchers speculate that the enriching nutrients and water brought to this deeper soil may have been more valuable to plants than the improvements to the upper soil that occurred when the predatory beetles were absent and the earthworms remained in the upper soil. So the next time your outdoor plants aren't growing, it might not be because there aren't enough earthworms, but because the earthworms lack predators to hide from.