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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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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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