Mountains tend to have more species than valleys, and new research provides support for the theory that mountain formation itself might be responsible.
Yaowu Ying and Richard Ree from The Field Museum in Chicago compared regional rates of plant colonisation and speciation in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, a high-altitude biodiversity hotspot. Within the QTP, the Hengduan mountain region is the most biodiverse, harbouring an astonishing 12,000 species in just 500,000 km2. The authors used published datasets to compare the spread of over 4,500 plant species across Hengduan, the Central Asian Mountains and the Himalayas.
Habitat disturbance, be that logging, agriculture, or roads and infrastructure, can be hugely damaging to biodiversity. But even after the visible wounds have healed, the genetic scars of past disturbance remain in the genome, according to results from a two-decade-long study of shrubs in Spain.
The effects of habitat disturbance on plants can be seen in the genomes of the next generation, a new study reports for the first time. The team compared the genetic and epigenetic profiles of shrubs (Lavandula latifolia) that had been experimentally disturbed 20 years previously, with those left undisturbed for more than 50 years.
A new paper published in Current Biology this month shows how one species of pitcher plant has evolved to attract a species of bat and use it as a source of fertiliser.
The Bornean pitch plant in question (Nepenthes hemsleyana) is part of a mutualistic relationship with the Common woolly bat (Kerivoula hardwickii), in which the pitcher offers the bat a safe place to roost, and in return the bat provides fertiliser in the form of guano (bat poop). Dr Michael Schöner and his team tested the pitcher with a sonar beam and found that it acts as a multidirectional ultrasound reflector. They then experimentally modified the shape of the pitcher, and found that one particular region, known as the orifice, helped bats locate the pitcher.
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