Plants vs. Predators

T CRANCUE tcrancue at aol.com
Wed May 17 01:35:57 EST 1995


One of the most important, but most overlooked, plant adaptations to
defend against animal predators may the development of a plant structure
extremely high in fiber. Fiber, being highly indigestable by most animals,
is an excellent inhibitor to animals. A few animals have found a way to
enter this niche food source including cows and some monkeys, both having
adapted specialized foreguts to handle the digestion of fiber by a
bacterial colony which in turn provides the ingesting animal with food as
a biproduct. These same animals are often able to utilize plants employing
another protection, namely toxins. The bacteria in the foregut break down
the toxins allowing the animal to survive when ingesting foods that would
normally kill other animals. You should also consider other more obvious
protection mechanisms like thorns, spines, thistles, the fur-like hairy
fibers on some cacti, etc.

While plants don't seem to react to attack, there is evidence that if a
single plant is damaged, either by an animal or the blow of an axe, the
chemical balance of trees surrounding the damaged tree changes. You could
say that they "sense" this damage and make moves to adjust their chemical
states to the best advantage during an attack. This "sense" is probably a
simple chemical reaction to the release of chemicals from the damaged
tree.

Hope this helps!

--TCC



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