Sunday, 19 August 2012

Ants 'sow the seeds' of the Cape

Ants helped create a biodiversity hotspot in the Cape region of South Africa, scientists believe.
Researchers have highlighted two recent studies that suggest seeds spread by ants may be an important driver of plant diversity in the Cape.
The two studies used genetic data from areas with and without seed-dispersing ants to assess their contribution to diversity.
The scientists said the evidence showed a "great role for tiny players".
Professor Jonathan Majer and Professor Ladislav Mucina from Curtin University in Australia wrote their report in response to a scholarlyarticle calling for the causes of diversification in the Cape region to be identified.
"It's one of the world's global biodiversity hotspots," Prof Majer, an expert in insect conservation, told BBC Nature.
The area is climatically similar to the south west of Western Australia. Both are exposed to the same wind currents, rainfall patterns and similar latitude.
But the biodiversity of each region has puzzled scientists.
Prof Majer is the co-author of two previous studies on how certain ant species disperse seeds, a process known as myrmecochory.
Some plants exploit this by producing seeds with an elaiosome, a fleshy appendage that attracts ants.

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