Thursday, 4 April 2019

Rabbits like to eat plants with lots of DNA



Rabbits prefer to eat plants with plenty of DNA, according to a new study by Queen Mary University of London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The researchers also found that it is the opposite for invertebrates, like snails and insects, as they prefer to eat plants with much less DNA.
Many factors influence what herbivores such as rabbits eat but the role of genome size, which is the amount of DNA in an organism's cells, in herbivore-plant interaction was unknown.
In this study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers suggest that genome size should be used as a new measure to improve ecological models which are designed to predict how plant communities will respond to ecological change, caused by climate or altered land use for example.
However, while the results suggest which plants rabbits and invertebrates prefer, they could also show that these plants are simply recovering more slowly after being eaten.
Professor Andrew Leitch, joint-lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, said: "We demonstrate that genome size plays a role in influencing plant-herbivore interactions, and suggest the inclusion of genome size in ecological models has the potential to expand our understanding of plant productivity and community ecology under nutrient and herbivore stress."
The study was carried out on grassland west of London, where herbivores have been excluded for eight years.

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