Friday, 24 November 2017

Parasitic plants rely on unusual method to spread their seeds


November 14, 2017

Three species of non-photosynthetic plants rely mainly on camel crickets to disperse their seeds, according to new research from Project Associate Professor Suetsugu Kenji (Kobe University Graduate School of Science). These findings were published on November 9 in the online edition of New Phytologist.

Most non-photosynthetic plants have very small seeds that can be dispersed by the wind like dust particles. However, some achlorophyllous plants grow in the dark understory of forests, and have abandoned the dependence on the wind for seed dispersal. In this study, Professor Suetsugu investigated the seed dispersal method for three such plants: Yoania amagiensis, Monotropastrum humile and Phacellanthus tubiflorus. He identified the camel cricket as their main seed disperser, the first evidence of camel crickets being used for seed dispersal in the flowering plants.

The most famous example of insect carriers is ants, but the ants do not eat the seeds: they carry them to their nests in their mandibles. Insects who carry seeds by eating them are very rare. One example is the New Zealand weta, but this is a special case: normally this role would be taken by mammals, but in New Zealand the only native mammals are bats.

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