Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Airborne gut action primes wild chili pepper seeds

21.06.2013
Scientists have long known that seeds gobbled by birds and dispersed across the landscape tend to fare better than those that fall near parent plants where seed-hungry predators and pathogens are more concentrated.

Now it turns out it might not just be the trip through the air that's important, but also the inches-long trip through the bird.


An ant carries off a wild chili pepper seed.
Credit: Tomás Carlo

Seeds from a wild chili pepper plant found in South America, after being eaten and passed through the digestive tract of small-billed Elaenias, emerge with less of the odor that attracts seed-eating ants, and carrying fewer pathogens able to kill the seed.

Passing through bird guts increased seed survival 370 percent, regardless of how far the seeds were dispersed from its parent, according to Evan Fricke, a UW doctoral student in biology and lead author of a paper appearing online June 21 in Ecology Letters.

"Ecologists have not been considering gut processing as a factor when they find seeds having less predation or infection away from parent plants, but they should," Fricke said. "If similar mechanisms are happening with other species, then ecologists have been missing some major benefits of seed dispersal mutualism between plants and animals."

The assumption has been that the better success was all a matter of distance. And in some cases it is. There have been previous experiments, for example, where seeds from a single plant were planted right by the plant and others at some distance away – no passing through an animal gut, just planted by hand. The seeds farther away survived better.

Not all plants benefit when seeds are far from the parent plant, including the chili pepper in the study. The scientists found there was little survival difference between gut-passed seeds planted near other wild chili peppers and those planted some distance away. This could lead to the mistaken idea that the short-billed Elaenia is not important for the wild chili pepper if, as previously assumed, the main value of a bird carrying seeds is to get them away from predators and pathogens around parent plants, Fricke said.

The plant in the study, Capsicum chacoense, grows to 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and produces half-inch (centimeter) peppers that are red when ripe and hotter-tasting than jalapenos. It grows wild in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. The bird, Elaenia parvirostris, is the most common consumer of chilies at the study site in southeast Bolivia.

While still on the plant, insects infect some peppers with a kind of fungi that kills seeds. Laboratory examination of seeds that had passed through birds showed the fungal load of infected seeds was reduced by more than 30 percent. Growing under natural conditions, gut-passed seeds had twice the survival rate of seeds taken directly from peppers.

When it came to hungry ants – a major predator of pepper seeds at the study site – seeds straight from peppers were twice as likely to be carried off as were gut-passed seeds, at least for the first two days. After that the ants went after both kinds of seeds about equally. The scientists suspected some sort of chemical dynamic and lab investigations showed seeds that hadn't passed through birds emitted volatile compounds, especially during the first two days, that attracted ants.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society, and logistical support in Bolivia was provided by Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The other UW co-authors are Melissa Simon, Karen Reagan, Jeffrey Riffell and Joshua Tewksbury, who remains a UW faculty member although he is now with the World Wildlife Fund in Switzerland. The other co-authors are Douglas Levey with the National Science Foundation and Tomás Carlo, who did postdoctoral research at the UW and is now at Pennsylvania State University.

For more information: Fricke, is working in the Mariana Islands and can be reached via email, ecfricke@uw.edu

Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>