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24 April 2014 11:45 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
Major climate data sets have underestimated the rate of global warming in the last 15 years owing largely to poor data...
The tsetse fly is best known as the vector for the trypanosome parasites that cause sleeping sickness and a disease in...
The National Institutes of Health is revising its "two strikes" rule, which allowed researchers only one chance to...
By stabilizing the components of retromers, molecular complexes that act like recycling bins in cells, a recently...
Fossil fuels power modern society by generating heat, but much of that heat is wasted. Semiconductor devices called...
Researchers are gaining insights into what made Supertyphoon Haiyan so powerful and devastating through post-storm...
Millions around the world got a first-hand look at what it was like to be in Tacloban while it was pummeled by...
- 24 April 2014 11:45 am , Vol. 344 , #6182
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ScienceShot: Lonely Plant Enlists Ants
12 September 2012 5:01 pm
On two vertical cliffs in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, 1000 or so puny, yamlike plants cling to life—and despite the plant's precarious cliffside existence, it somehow manages to reproduce. The plants, described by an alpine gardening Web site as "essentially modest foliage plants and mainly for the connoisseur," are all that's left of the species Borderea chouardii, a holdover from an otherwise vanished tropical ecosystem. Scientists suspected insect visitors carried pollen between the separate male and female plants, so with help from scaffolding and climbing gear, they spent 76 hours monitoring the plants in 2008 and 2009. Mostly, they saw ants. They ruled out wind pollination by setting out slides, then checking the pollen that collected on them. Then, through a series of experiments where they offered seeds to ants, they worked out that different species of ants were sharing the labor: Two species of ants pollinate the flowers and a third disperses the seeds, the team reports online today in PLoS ONE. However, the scientists note, relying on another species is risky, so how do the plants get away with putting all of their reproductive eggs in a few ant-carried baskets? One possibility is that the plants don't have to put out a lot of seed because they live so long—more than 300 years. And it probably helps that big herbivores can't reach them on their clifftop dwellings.
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