The tiny, diligent gardeners of the Amazon

The gardeners described here are not concerned with trimmed topiaries or manicured lawns—though, like designers of landscape gardens, these workers are exceptionally picky. And they have to be if they are going to survive. That is, ants such as Myrmelachista schumanni and Camponotus femoratus of South America depend on certain plants for shelter, and in return, they offer these plants nutrients and protection from predators. As a...

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Can birds affect tree growth?

Growing conditions, such as water and nutrient supply, are the major determinates of tree growth, but insectivorous birds can also play an important role, say scientists in a study published in the January issue of Ecology. Under the right conditions, birds contribute to whole tree growth by preying on herbaceous arthropods, such as leafhoppers, caterpillars and grasshoppers…

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Master-of-one caterpillars dodge bird predation

Insect herbivore species often specialize on the host plants that they eat, evolving adaptations to use a plant’s unique set of resources.  But like any time you throw all your eggs in one basket, these caterpillars put themselves at risk. Michael Singer of Wesleyan University gave a talk today at the ESA Annual Meeting that evaluated these tradeoffs in caterpillars. “A lot of evolutionary ecologists have pondered the...

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