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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain how angiosperm diversity is due, in part, to multiple interactions with animals
  • Describe ways in which pollination occurs
  • Discuss the roles that plants play in ecosystems and how deforestation threatens plant biodiversity

Without seed plants, life as we know it would not be possible. Plants play a key role in the maintenance of terrestrial ecosystems through stabilization of soils, cycling of carbon, and climate moderation. Large tropical forests release oxygen and act as carbon dioxide sinks. Seed plants provide shelter to many life forms, as well as food for herbivores, thereby indirectly feeding carnivores. Plant secondary metabolites are used for medicinal purposes and industrial production.

Animals and plants: herbivory

Coevolution of flowering plants and insects is a hypothesis that has received much attention and support, especially because both angiosperms and insects diversified at about the same time in the middle Mesozoic. Many authors have attributed the diversity of plants and insects to pollination and herbivory    , or consumption of plants by insects and other animals. This is believed to have been as much a driving force as pollination. Coevolution of herbivores and plant defenses is observed in nature. Unlike animals, most plants cannot outrun predators or use mimicry to hide from hungry animals. A sort of arms race exists between plants and herbivores. To “combat” herbivores, some plant seeds—such as acorn and unripened persimmon—are high in alkaloids and therefore unsavory to some animals. Other plants are protected by bark, although some animals developed specialized mouth pieces to tear and chew vegetal material. Spines and thorns ( [link] ) deter most animals, except for mammals with thick fur, and some birds have specialized beaks to get past such defenses.

 Photo A shows a green cactus. It is covered in clusters of long, slender spines that are pale white and have visible sharp points. Photo B shows a green fuzzy stem with several short green thorns protruding from it.
(a) Spines and (b) thorns are examples of plant defenses. (credit a: modification of work by Jon Sullivan; credit b: modification of work by I. Sáček, Sr.)

Herbivory has been used by seed plants for their own benefit in a display of mutualistic relationships. The dispersal of fruit by animals is the most striking example. The plant offers to the herbivore a nutritious source of food in return for spreading the plant’s genetic material to a wider area.

An extreme example of collaboration between an animal and a plant is the case of acacia trees and ants. The trees support the insects with shelter and food. In return, ants discourage herbivores, both invertebrates and vertebrates, by stinging and attacking leaf-eating insects.

Animals and plants: pollination

Grasses are a successful group of flowering plants that are wind pollinated. They produce large amounts of powdery pollen carried over large distances by the wind. The flowers are small and wisp-like. Large trees such as oaks, maples, and birches are also wind pollinated.

Explore this website for additional information on pollinators.

More than 80 percent of angiosperms depend on animals for pollination    : the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma. Consequently, plants have developed many adaptations to attract pollinators. The specificity of specialized plant structures that target animals can be very surprising. It is possible, for example, to determine the type of pollinator favored by a plant just from the flower’s characteristics. Many bird or insect-pollinated flowers secrete nectar    , which is a sugary liquid. They also produce both fertile pollen, for reproduction, and sterile pollen rich in nutrients for birds and insects. Butterflies and bees can detect ultraviolet light. Flowers that attract these pollinators usually display a pattern of low ultraviolet reflectance that helps them quickly locate the flower's center and collect nectar while being dusted with pollen ( [link] ). Large, red flowers with little smell and a long funnel shape are preferred by hummingbirds, who have good color perception, a poor sense of smell, and need a strong perch. White flowers opened at night attract moths. Other animals—such as bats, lemurs, and lizards—can also act as pollinating agents. Any disruption to these interactions, such as the disappearance of bees as a consequence of colony collapse disorders, can lead to disaster for agricultural industries that depend heavily on pollinated crops.

Questions & Answers

Simple term of science
Palesa Reply
what does it mean
gopal
it's means what do u know about biology?
Phathu
what is immunisation
Melysa
what is the biology? what do you know about biology
Phathu Reply
biology is the study of living organisms, divided into many specialized fields that cover their morphology, physiology, anatomy, behavior, origin, and distribution.
Julia
The study of all aspects of life. The study of all living organisms (such as animal cells and plant cells) in greater detail (their structure and how they function). It's a very broad science.
juanita
what is prokaryotic
Bhaskar Reply
what is pathogens
Bhaskar
transistion metals....
Wasik Reply
Why study ecology
Amos Reply
What name is given to group 8metals on a periodic table
Amos
what is evolution
Elia Reply
Is the gradual change of something it can be either organisms
Amos
which of the following statements about the moss life cycle is false?
Israel Reply
posterior lobe of pitutary contains what?
MR Reply
What if vincristine and colchicibe disrupt mitosis by binding to tubulin
Rohith Reply
A plant in the understory of a forest displays a segmented stem and slender leaves arranged in a whorl. It is probably....
Israel Reply
How did the development of a vascular system contribute to the increase in size of plants?
Israel
If a flower lacked a megasporangium and microsporangium, what type of gametes would not form?
Israel
Seed plants are.. A. all homosporous B. mostly homosporous with some heterosporous C. mostly heterosporous with some homosporous D. all heterosporous
Israel
Besides the seed, what other major structure diminishes a plant's reliance on water for reproduction?
Israel
what role did the adaptations of seed and pollen play in the development and expansion of seed plants?
Israel
Some cycads are considered endangered species and their trade is severely restricted. Customs officials stop suspected smugglers who claim that the plants in their possession are palm trees, not cycads. How would a botanist distinguish between the two types of plants?
Israel
What are the two structures that allow angiosperms to be the dominant form of plant life in most terrestrial ecosystems?
Israel
how are carbohydrates,proteins and fats formed from triose phosphate
fonyuy Reply
Why does the actin filament only move in one direction? Describe in great detail.
Lashonda Reply
Two events happen when calcium binds to troponin.
Lashonda
which of the following statements about plant division is false?
Israel Reply
😂😂😂 i dont know how i reached here
esther
What are the events that occur in each phase of interphase
Hazey Reply
what is photosynthesis
Victor Reply
The process plants use to convert sunlight into food (energy).
juanita
Some other organisms use
juanita
types of photosynthesis
Victor
ps1 and ps2
smritilekha

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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