Recent research in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa puts this predilection into an evolutionary perspective. “Many fleshy fruits that we enjoy, like mangoes and avocados, once evolved to be eaten and dispersed by elephant-like creatures that are now extinct.” says Åsa Hemborg, author of the study published in the African Journal of Ecology, “In the world today, only Africa and Asia can show examples of how these powerful browsers affect the trees they feed on. The sweet and fleshy Marula fruits evolved to attract the most powerful browser on the savannah - the African elephant.”
In this, the Marula trees are very successful “In fact, elephants are crazy about them!” observes Dr Hemborg “They spot the Marulas from far and walk long distances to feed on fruits, foliage and bark.” The research shows that the female Marula suffers a higher risk than the male tree of being destroyed and perhaps killed by elephants. “There is a conflict of interest experienced by female trees when the disperser also has the potential to seriously damage or kill the tree.”
Interestingly, evolution has not provided the female tree with tougher branches, as their branch resistance was similar to that of male plants. This suggests that it may be hard to resist elephant attacks by strength alone. Instead, the selective pressure of browsing may promote the evolution of trees with good resprouting ability.
Although mega-herbivores such as the elephant have now gone from most parts of the planet, study of unisexual trees such as the Marula can help shed light on the shape and form we see in trees today because only females live with the risk of being destroyed by the same animal that she seeks to attract as a disperser for her fruits.
Davina Quarterman | alfa
Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Making Oceans Plastic Free - Project tackles the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans
31.05.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Life Sciences
23.06.2017 | Information Technology