09 February 2012

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Making sense of ubiquitous plant defenses

A giraffe, dodging thorns like a pro. Photo by Colin Beale, via Nothing in Biology Makes Sense.
We have a second post at the collaborative blog Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! this week, in which ecologist Colin Beale (guest posting from Safari Ecology) tackles the question of why so many African savannah plants grow thorns:

At one level the answer is obvious—there are an awful lot of animals that like to eat bushes and trees in the savanna. Any tree that wants to avoid this would probably be well advised to grow thorns or have some other type of defence mechanism to protect itself. But then again, perhaps the answer isn’t so obvious: all those animals that like to eat bushes seem to be eating the bushes perfectly happily despite the thorns. So why bother having thorns in the first place?

To find out why, and see more of Colin's great photos, go read the whole thing. ◼

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