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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

can i get a broader difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning
Daniel Reply
what are the types of tissues and there functions
Daniel
what is signal cascade?
nur Reply
it is the process by which plants produce their fo
Getabalew Reply
what are the substrates of this process
Fiko
definition of photosynthesis
Fiko Reply
it is simply the process by which plants get there food from the sun through the use of chlorophyll
Daniel
what are the advantages and disadvantages of external and internal fertilization
Mohd Reply
which type of blood group can be tranfer easily after Accidents
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O positive cause it is a general donor
Daniel
It can give to other blood group except O negative that can only get from O negative
Daniel
which is the polygonum type of embryo sac in angiosperms
Madhura Reply
Describe how hormones regulate blood pressure, blood volume, and kidney function
junius Reply
2 Positive water potential is placed on the left side of the tube by increasing Ψp such that the water level rises on the right side. Could you equalize the water level on each side of the tube by adding solute, and if so, how?
Sarah Reply
where are the enzymes required for electron transport system located
Madhura
plant and animal cell
Oyedeji Reply
what plant and animal cell
PAvan
plant cell has a definite shape whilst the animal cell has indefinite shape
Owusu
e carriers are present in criste of mitochondria which boosts the process
Maaz
what does cell mean?
Asali
what are the type of cell
abiola Reply
Poukaryotic cell and euakaryotic cell
Smile's
prokaryotes don't have well delet nucleus while Euler have well developed nucleus
Durgesh
Which of the following is considered a keystone species? Deer, Beaver, Elk or Wolves
Nicole Reply
Origin and Diversity of higher plants
Gideon Reply
explain the reason why the impudent and excessive use of antibiotics could be potentially harmful to the user.
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diseases gain antibiotic resistance from the antibiotic if often used.
Jerome
what is mean by serum
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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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