July 21, 2024

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He discovered a tiny organism that spreads seeds by eating them

He discovered a tiny organism that spreads seeds by eating them

Earwigs and woodlice are becoming more private. A new study shows that these creatures can spread seeds by eating them. This would make woodlice the smallest species ever capable of doing this.

They can be found under every paving stone: woodlice. Although in the Netherlands we are not very big fans of these creatures, things are a little different on the other side of the world. For example, a Japanese study showed that woodlice and earwigs are able to eat ant seeds.Silver dragon plantor the Monotropastrum modestyTo eat. And not only that; Insects also excrete them and thus help the plant spread its seeds.

New seed dispensers
Scientist Kenji Sutsugo contributed to the research. “We tried to find new ecological interactions by focusing on smaller life forms,” he says. The discovery of these new seed dispersers calls for science to rethink old strategies. In addition, this research proves once again how important it is to ensure the preservation of diverse habitats. The research has been published in the journal Plants, people, planet.

Fruity benefit
For the study, Sotsujo’s team looked specifically at… Silver dragon plantor the Monotropastrum unpretentious. This plant is found throughout East Asia and is known for its small seeds. However, it is not yet known how the plant can reproduce, as the seeds are safely stored in a fruity covering. Therefore, the researchers decided to collect a number of copies of Silver dragon plant Keep an eye on it by automatically photographing it at night. Next, they looked at the pictures to see which animal species enjoyed the fruit the plant produced the most.

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This analysis shows that the cave crayfish ate more than half of the total fruit. This strain also ended up destroying the fewest seeds, which is important for plant reproduction. In addition to cave locusts, research has shown that earwigs and woodlice also like the fruit. These species keep about 30% of all seeds intact. During the last step before the research, scientists looked into whether the seeds of… Silver dragon plant Through the digestive system of earwigs and woodlice. It turns out that this is actually possible. This indicates that earwigs and woodlice play an active role in seed dispersal of this plant.

The fact that animals can spread plant seeds by eating them and then excreting them again is not new in itself. Scientists know that many animals – such as birds, but also fish – help plants in this way distribute their seeds – sometimes over great distances. But what makes this new research so special is the size of the seeds dispersed at its centre; Never before have researchers seen such tiny creatures spreading seeds by eating them and excreting them again.

So it appears that earwigs and woodlice are able to eat earwig seeds M. modest It then secretes part of it – about 30 percent – in one piece – thus contributing to the spread of those seeds. But the research also reveals that about 70 percent of the seeds consumed by earwigs and woodlice should be considered lost. However, according to the researchers, this is not an immediate problem. They suspect that it is ultimately beneficial to the plant that woodlice and haircuts also help in seed dispersal.

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The discovery that underappreciated earwigs and woodlice can play such an important role for plants leaves us wanting more and makes researchers suspect that there are more tiny seed dispersers waiting to be discovered. Sutsugu concludes: “Some species were previously classified as ecologically insignificant. We are therefore trying to find more species that have similar seed dispersal mechanisms. In this way we hope to uncover an ecological phenomenon that is currently overlooked.”