Posts Tagged ‘symbiotic’

Photo: David M. Jensen (Storkk) via Wikimedia.
Capuchin monkeys like the same fruits that certain fish like. And the fish know it.

My husband is up very early and often checks to see what’s doing in the No Man’s Land of early morning television. There are always lots of ads for pharmaceuticals geared to the elderly. Sometimes there are ancient black and white movies. Or there might be reruns of David Attenborough nature shows.

That’s how he learned about fish that have a symbiotic relationship with monkeys. I had to search online to learn more.

One helpful article was from DPZ in Germany, here.

“Eckhard W. Heymann of the German Primate Center (DPZ) and Shin Shin Hsia von Earth Corps have found by reviewing literature, that various vertebrate species intermittently associate with primates to profit from the primates’ behavior.

“The idea suggests itself: Where one animal species feeds, remains of the food might be dropped which will be a meal to another species or potential prey might be flushed. If both species tolerate each other, they might even benefit from each others’ alarm calls against predators. But data about such associations in primates have been mostly confined to stray remarks in primate studies.”

The authors of Unlike fellows – a review of primate-non-primate associations “have now reviewed a large number of relevant studies and by comparative analysis found that such associations have been documented quite often throughout almost all ranges of primates worldwide. Highlighting this conclusion, the review adds a new role in primates’ significance for their habitat to the roster.

“The researchers have found evidence for 174 such primate – non-primate associations (PNPA) in total, involving 64 primate species and 95 other vertebrates. Most of these associations can be categorized as commensalist: They are beneficial for the one part, neutral for the other (in this case mainly the primate species).

“Most often birds associate with primates. In Africa for example, the black-casqued hornbill (Ceratogymna astrata) joins several medium-sized primate species while these feed on fruit from trees. The birds take advantage of the relative security produced by the primates’ vigilance and alarm calls against predators. Also the asiatic chital deer (Axis axis) entertains a close relation to northern plains gray langurs (Semnopithecus entellus): the deer follows langur groups on average 2.6 hours a day to eat fruit and leaves the primates drop.

“Even associations as improbable as between fish and primates are documented: In South America, fruit-eating Piraputangas (Brycon microlepis) have been spotted following a group of capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) up to 100 yards along a river to snap up fruit dropped by the monkeys.

” ‘The geographical distribution of such associations is also significant,’ Eckhard Heymann says. Most of them are reported for the Neotropics, many for Asia and the African Continent, but none for Madagascar. ‘We have so far only documented associations for diurnal species, which in part accounts for the fact that in the madagascan species, often being nocturnal lemurs, no associations are known,’ Heymann adds.” More.

At Riozonas Acai, here, the focus is on the symbiotic relationship between certain monkeys and fish. The website hails the “ingenious fish species named piraputanga [that] can jump out the water to pick fruits off of trees that overhang the jungle rivers of Brazil. In one swift jump, it’s able to grab a handful. … This feat involves strength, agility and precision.

“The name comes from the indigenous language tupi-guarani, with two meanings, ‘fish that eats fruit’ as well as ‘reddish fish.’ Although they have a preference for fruits, their diet also consists of seeds, flowers, small fish, insects, arachnids and crustaceans. This fish lives in clear and crystalline waters, which makes it much easier to be caught. So here’s one interesting fact: if you notice crystal clear waters and little presence of piraputangas, it might be an indication that the place is not preserving the species as well as it should.

“For us humans, this fish is very well known — we could even say famous — for being hard-to-catch for those who enjoy fishing for sport. It battles and offers great resistance to be caught, and that is a great thrill for those into fishing. It is also known for providing tasty meat, being included in several recipes. It becomes slightly red when cooked, making people think tomato sauce was used during its preparation!”

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Love for Fungi

As a kid, I was kind of creeped out by fungi, but in recent years I’ve found myself fascinated by their unexpected beauty and mystery. And I’ve taken lots of pictures, three of which are here.

In an article at the New York Times, Ferris Jabr, describing the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, talks to forest ecologist Suzanne Simard about what trees are communicating with one another through their subterranean networks of fungi.

“By the time she was in grad school at Oregon State University, [Simard] understood that commercial clearcutting had largely superseded the sustainable logging practices of the past. Loggers were replacing diverse forests with homogeneous plantations, evenly spaced in upturned soil stripped of most underbrush. Without any competitors, the thinking went, the newly planted trees would thrive. Instead, they were frequently more vulnerable to disease and climatic stress than trees in old-growth forests.

“In particular, Simard noticed that up to 10 percent of newly planted Douglas fir were likely to get sick and die whenever nearby aspen, paper birch and cottonwood were removed. The reasons were unclear. The planted saplings had plenty of space, and they received more light and water than trees in old, dense forests. So why were they so frail?

“Simard suspected that the answer was buried in the soil. Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizas: Threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis.

“Research had demonstrated that mycorrhizas also connected plants to one another and that these associations might be ecologically important, but most scientists had studied them in greenhouses and laboratories, not in the wild. For her doctoral thesis, Simard decided to investigate fungal links between Douglas fir and paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. …

‘The old foresters were like, Why don’t you just study growth and yield?’ Simard told me. ‘I was more interested in how these plants interact. They thought it was all very girlie.’

“Now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned longstanding misconceptions about forest ecosystems. By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits.

“Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors.

“Although Simard’s peers were skeptical and sometimes even disparaging of her early work, they now generally regard her as one of the most rigorous and innovative scientists studying plant communication and behavior. … In May, Knopf will publish [her] book, Finding the Mother Tree, a vivid and compelling memoir of her lifelong quest to prove that ‘the forest was more than just a collection of trees.’ …

“Before Simard and other ecologists revealed the extent and significance of mycorrhizal networks, foresters typically regarded trees as solitary individuals that competed for space and resources and were otherwise indifferent to one another. Simard and her peers have demonstrated that this framework is far too simplistic. An old-growth forest is neither an assemblage of stoic organisms tolerating one another’s presence nor a merciless battle royale: It’s a vast, ancient and intricate society. There is conflict in a forest, but there is also negotiation, reciprocity and perhaps even selflessness. The trees, understory plants, fungi and microbes in a forest are so thoroughly connected, communicative and codependent that some scientists have described them as superorganisms. …

“Together, these symbiotic partners knit Earth’s soils into nearly contiguous living networks of unfathomable scale and complexity. ‘I was taught that you have a tree, and it’s out there to find its own way,’ Simard told me. ‘It’s not how a forest works, though.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

Hat tip: Hannah.

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Here’s a recent story about how fungi, of all things, may be affecting global warming.

From ScienceDaily: “Microscopic fungi that live in plants’ roots play a major role in the storage and release of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere, according to a University of Texas at Austin researcher and his colleagues at Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The role of these fungi is currently unaccounted for in global climate models. Some types of symbiotic fungi can lead to 70 percent more carbon stored in the soil.

” ‘Natural fluxes of carbon between the land and atmosphere are enormous and play a crucial role in regulating the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and, in turn, Earth’s climate,’ said Colin Averill, lead author on the study and graduate student in the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin. …

“Soil contains more carbon than both the atmosphere and vegetation combined, so predictions about future climate depend on a solid understanding of how carbon cycles between the land and air.

“Plants remove carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis in the form of carbon dioxide. Eventually the plant dies, sheds leaves, or loses a branch or two, and that carbon is added to the soil. The carbon remains locked away in the soil until the remains of the plant decompose, when soil-dwelling microbes feast on the dead plant matter and other organic detritus. That releases carbon back into the air. …

“Where plants partner with [ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal] (EEM) fungi, the soil contains 70 percent more carbon per unit of nitrogen than in locales where [other] fungi are the norm. The EEM fungi allow the plants to compete with the microbes for available nitrogen, thus

reducing the amount of decomposition and lowering the amount of carbon released back into the atmosphere.


Photo: Colin Averill
The fruiting body of a fungus associated with the roots of a Hemlock tree in Harvard Forest.


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