Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fatal Attraction: Elephants and Marula Fruit

15.02.2007
Being female can be a risky business, especially if you are a Marula tree in Africa receiving the attention of elephants. The tasty, nutritious and vitamin C-rich Marula fruits are much sought after by both man and animals. It is a stable “wild food” and base for the popular Amarula liquor. But Marula has separate male and female trees so fruiting females attract browsing elephants, which cause damage to branches and bark.

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
Further information:
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2028.2006.00666.x

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>