Arxiu d'etiquetes: bat

Meet the micromammals

Felineswolveselephantsapes… We all know big mammals, but what about the smaller ones? Do you know what is a desman or a solenodon? Read on to find out more about small mammals and their importance.

WHAT IS A MICROMAMMAL?

The word “micromammal” has no taxonomical value: it is not a word that biology uses in the classification of mammals. However, this colloquial term, like the word “dinosaur” sometimes it is used in scientific publications to group together several orders of small mammals, although in the same taxonomic group some species can have a large size.

El erizo europeo (Erinaceus europaeus), un micromamífero. Fuente
European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), a micromammal. Source

In general, we consider micromammals animals of the following groups:

  • Bats
  • Rodents (rats, mice, squirrels, marmots, beavers, prairie dogs, hamsters, lemmings, gerbils, voles, chinchillas…)
  • Lagomorphs (rabbits, hares and pikas)
  • Insectivores (shrews, hedgehogs, moles, desmans …)

BATS

As we learnt in a previous post, bats are essential animals for ecosystems, they also have unique characteristics that make them worthy of several records: they are the only mammals able to fly actively, they are distributed to nearly every continent, they don’t get sick… to find out more about bats, visit What is a bat for?

Crías de zorro volador rescatadas por la Australian Bat Clinic después de las inundaciones de 2010. Fuente
Flying fox cubs rescued by the Australian Bat Clinic after the floods of 2010. Source

In the Iberian Peninsula live eight species of bats. Learn more about them in the website Fauna Ibérica.

RODENTS

Rodents are the largest order of mammals, accounting for over 40% of the total and inhabit all continents except Antarctica. Some rodents are not considered micromammals for its large size, such as capybaras or porcupines. Most rodents are quadrupeds with long tail, claws, whiskers and continuously-growing large incisors. This fact forces them to constantly gnaw through its specialized jaws, to wear away the incisors and always keep them sharp. They have a great sense of smell and hearing, and the sense of touch in his whiskers. They communicate by scent and various vocalizations.

Topillo común (Pitymys duodecimcostatus). Foto: Herminio M. Muñiz
Common vole (Microtus duodecimcostatus). Photo: Herminio M. Muñiz

Most species are social and form large communities. Their anatomy is not so specialized than other mammals, allowing them to adapt to different habitats. Added to the high birth rate, they can keep populations stable in adverse conditions. The black rat, for example, can have litters every month of more than 10 babys.

Lirón gris (Glis glis). Foto: Miguel Ángel Castaño Ortega
Gray dormouse (Glis glis). Photo: Miguel Ángel Castaño Ortega

Some rodents, especially rats and mice, occupy the same habitats that humans and are considered a plague. In addition to eating human food, they can contaminate it with their urine and feces and they are transmitters of more than 20 diseases, including the typhus and plague.

Common squirrel (sciurus vulgaris). Photo: Peter Trimming
Common squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). Photo: Peter Trimming

In the Iberian Peninsula inhabit about 23 species, divided into five categories:

  • Cricetidae: voles (8 species), water vole and southern muskrat (non-native).
  • Gliridae: Gray dormouse
  • Sciuridae: common squirrel
  • Muridae: mice and rats
  • Myocastoride: Coypu (non-native)

Coipú (Myocastor coypus). Foto: www.simbiosisactiva.org
Coypu (Myocastor coypus). Photo: http://www.simbiosisactiva.org

RABBITS, HARES AND PIKAS (LAGOMORPHS)

pica-de-ili
Ili pika. It is an endangered species, it was seen again after 10 years disappeared. Pic: Li Weidong

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, rabbits and hares are not rodents but they belong to the order of lagomorphs. Unlike rodents, lagomorphs have a small, round tail, paws with thick fur and hair in  their foot sole that helps grip while running.

All species are terrestrial and are distributed almost worldwide. They are among the most hunted animals, so its body has adapted to elude predators:

  • Long ears for good hearing
  • Eyes on top of the head with a vision of almost 360º
  • Elongated hind legs to reach 56 km/h

Like rodents, the incisors are also continuously-growing, but behind them there is another smaller pair. They have high reproductive rates (some species can conceive a second litter before the first is born), sexual maturity within a few months of life and short gestations.

Comparación entre el cráneo de los lagomorfos (arriba) y roedores (abajo). Fuente
Comparison between the skull of lagomorphs (above) and rodents (below). Source

Lagomorphs are herbivores and practice cecotrophy: substances that can not be diggested, are evacuated through the anus in the shape of soft balls. They eat this balls in order to do a second digestion. If you have a rabbit as a pet ¡this behavior is completely normal!

In the Iberian Peninsula lives a species of rabbit and 4 species of hares (Iberian, European and Cabo del Piornal (non-native).

Conejo (izquierda) y liebre (derecha). Fuente
Rabbit (left) and hare (right). Source

INSECTIVOROUS MICROMAMMALS

Currently the order Insectivora is no longer used and micromammals that feed on insects (and other animals) can be classified into five Orders:

  • Hedgehogs, moonrats or gimnurs (Erinaceomorpha)
  • Shrews, moles and  solenodons (Soricomorpha).
  • Tenrecs and golden moles (Afrosoricida)
  • Elephant shrews (Macroscelidea)
  • Treeshrews (Scandentia)

solenodonte de La Española (Solenodon paradoxus
Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus). Photo by M. Eladio Fernandez.

They are considered to be the most primitive mammals. Many species are characterized by:

  • Elongated, thin and mobile snout. They have a good sense of smell
  • Ears and small eyes in some species, like moles
  • Five clawed toes on each paw
  • They are plantigrades
  • Some species, such as hedhehogs and tenrecs have spikes
  • The solenodonts, water shrews and shrews are among the few poisonous mammals in the world. Read this post to learn more.

Musgaño (Neomys anomalus). Foto de Rollin Verlinde.
Mediterranean water shrew (Neomys anomalus). Photo by Rollin Verlinde

Most of them are nocturnal and their diet is based on insects, spiders and worms, but they also eat plants and other animals. Besides, they are not the only mammals that eat insects.

Tenrec rayado (Hemicentetes semispinosus). Foto de Robert Siegel
Lowland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus). Photo by Robert Siegel

In the Iberian Peninsula lives the Pyrenean desman, two species of hedgehog, about five species of shrews, two species of water shrews, and the Spanish mole. To learn more about the Pyrenean desman, in the website El Bichólogo you can find more information.

Desmán Ibérico (Galemys pyrenaicus). Foto: David Pérez
Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus). Photo: David Perez

IMPORTANCE OF MICROMAMMALS

  • In Paleozoology, the fossils of micromammal provide a lot of information as they tend to be found more often in deposits than other mammals. In addition, many times their bones are accumulated due to the eating habits of their predators. They provide valuable information on the climate of the past (paleoclimatology) and the classification of rocks in layers (biostratigraphy).
  • Despite its bad reputation, some rodent species are beneficial, controlling insect populations and destroying weeds, contributing to the health of forests spreading fungus… and  are still used in scientific research.
  • Many species are responsible for the spread of pollen or seeds.
  • They are vital for the conservation and maintenance of their predatory species in decline, as the Pyrenean owl or Iberian Lynx.
  • Since some of them live in burrows (rabbits) or they are burrowers (moles), they contribute to the ventilation of the soil and its fertility.

REFERENCES

MIREIA QUEROL ALL YOU NEED IS BIOLOGY

Plants and animals can also live in marriage

When we think about the life of plants it is difficult to imagine without interaction with the animals, as they establish different symbiotic relationships day after day. These symbiotic relationships include all the herbivores, or in the contradictory way, all the carnivorous plants. But there are many other super important interactions between plants and animals, such as the relationships that allow them to help each other and to live together. So, this time I want to present mutualism between plants and animals.

And, what is mutualism? it is the relationship established between two organisms in which both benefit from living together, i.e., the two get a reward when they live with the other. This relationship increase their biological effectiveness (fitness), so there is a tendency to live always together.

According to this definition, both pollination and seed dispersal by animals are cases of mutualism. Let’s see.

POLLINATION BY ANIMALS

Many plants are visited by animals seeking to feed on nectar, pollen or other sugars they produce in their flowers and, during this process, the animals carry pollen from one flower to others, allowing it reaches the stigma in a very effective way. Thus, the plant gets the benefit of fertilization with a lower cost of pollen production, which would be higher if it was dispersed through the air. And the animals, in exchange, obtain food. Therefore, a true relationship of mutualism is stablished between the two organisms.

 “Video:The Beauty of Pollination” – Super Soul Sunday – Oprah Winfrey Network (www.youtube.com)

The extreme mutualism occurs when the species evolve depending on the other organism, i.e., when there is coevolution. We define the coevolution such as these evolutionary adaptations that allow two or more organisms to establish a deep relationship of symbiosis, due that the evolutionary adaptations of one specie influence the evolutionary adaptations of another organism. For example, this occurs between various orchids and their pollinators, as is the well- known case of Darwin’s orchid. But there are many other plants that also have co-evolved with their pollinators, as a fig tree or cassava.

In no way, this should be confused with the trickery produced by some plants to their pollinators, that is, when they do not obtain any direct benefit. For example, some orchids can attract their pollinators through odours (pheromones) and their curious forms that resemble female pollinator, stimulating them to visit their flowers. The pollinators will be impregnated with pollen, which will be transported to other flowers due to the same trickery.

14374841786_121feb4632_o.jpg
Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) (Autnor: Bernard DUPONT, flickr).

SEED DISPERSAL BY ANIMALS

The origin of seed dispersal by animals probably had occurred thanks to a co-evolutionary process between animals and mechanisms of seed dispersal in which both plants and animals obtain a profit. The most probably is that this process began in the Carboniferous (~ 300MA), as it is believed that some plants like cycads developed a false fleshy fruits that could be consumed by primitive reptiles that would act as seed dispersers. This process could have intensified the diversification of flowering plants (angiosperms), small mammals and birds during the Cretaceous (65-12MA).

The mutualism can occur in two ways within the seed dispersal by animals.

The first case is carried out by animals that eat seeds or fruits. These seeds or some parts of the fruits (diaspores) are expelled without being damaged, by defecation or regurgitation, allowing the seed germination. In this case, diaspores are carriers of rewards or lures that result very attractive to animals. That is the reason why fruits are usually fleshy, sweet and often have bright colours or emit scents to attract them.

For example, the red-eyed wattle (Acacia cyclops) produces seeds with elaiosomes (a very nutritive substance usually made of lipids) that are bigger than the own seed. This suppose an elevated energy cost to the plant, because it doesn’t only have to produce seeds, as it has to generate the award too. But in return, the rose-breasted or galah cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapillus) transports their seeds in long distances. Because when the galah cockatoo eats elaiosomes, it also ingest seeds which will be transported by its flight until they are expelled elsewhere.

Cacatua_Acacia.jpg
On the left,  Galah  cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapillus) (Autnor: Richard Fisher, flickr) ; On the right, red-eyed wattle’s seeds (black) with the elaiosome (pink) ( Acacia cyclops) (Autnor: Sydney Oats, flickr).

And the other type of seed dispersal by animals that establishes a mutualistic relationship occurs when the seeds or fruits are collected by the animal in times of abundance and then are buried as a food storage to be used when needed. As long as not all seed will be eaten, some will be able to germinate.

3748563123_eeb32302cf_o.jpg
A squirrel that is recollecting som nuts (Author: William Murphy, flickr)

But this has not finished yet, since there are other curious and less well-known examples that have somehow made that both animals and plants can live together in a perfect “marriage.” Let’s see examples:

Azteca and Cecropia

Plants of the genus Cecropia live in tropical rain forests of Central and South America and they are very big fighters. The strategy that allow them to grow quickly and capture sunlight, avoiding competition with other plants, resides in the strong relationship they have with Azteca ants. Plants provide nests to the ants, since their stems are normally hollow and with separations, allowing ants to inhabit inside. Furthermore, these plants also produce Müllerian bodies, which are small but very nutritive substances rich in glycogen that ants can eat. In return, the ants protect Cecropia from vines and lianas, allowing them to success as a pioneer plants.

Ant Plants: CecropiaAzteca Symbiosis (www.youtube.com)

Marcgravia and Bats

Few years ago, an interesting plant has been discovered in Cuba. This plant is pollinated by bats, and it has evolved giving rise to modified leaves that act as satellite dish for echolocation performed by these animals. That is, their shape allow bats to locate them quickly, so they can collect nectar more efficiently. And at the same time, bats also pollinate plants more efficiently, as these animals move very quickly each night to visit hundreds of flowers to feed.

6762814709_6dfaf49fff_o.jpg
Marcgravia (Author: Alex Popovkin, Bahia, Brazil, Flickr)

In general, we see that the life of plants depends largely on the life of animals, since they are connected in one way or another. All the interactions we have presented are part of an even larger set that make life a more complex and peculiar one, in which one’s life cannot be explained without the other’s life. For this reason, we can say that life of some animals and some plants resembles a marriage.

Difusió-anglès

REFERENCES

  • Notes from the Environmental Biology degree (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and the Master’s degree in Biodiversity (Universitat de Barcelona).
  • Bascompte, J. & Jordano, P. (2013) Mutualistic Networks (Chapter 1. Biodiversity and Plant-Animal Coevolution). Princeton University Press, pp 224.
  • Dansereau, P. (1957): Biogeography: an Ecological Perspective. The Ronald Press, New York., pp. 394.
  • Fenner M. & Thompson K. (2005). The Ecology of seeds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. pp. 250.
  • Font Quer, P. (1953): Diccionario de Botánica. Editorial Labor, Barcelona.
  • Izco, J., Barreno, E., Brugués, M., Costa, M., Devesa, J. A., Fernández, F., Gallardo, T., Llimona, X., Parada, C., Talavera, S. & Valdés, B. (2004) Botánica ªEdición. McGraw-Hill, pp. 906.
  • Murray D. R. (2012). Seed dispersal. Academy Press. 322 pp.
  • Tiffney B. (2004). Vertebrate dispersal of seed plants through time. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. 35:1-29.
  • Willis, K.J. & McElwain, J.C. (2014) The Evolution of Plants (second edition). Oxford University Press, pp. 424.
  • National Geographic (2011). Bats Drawn to Plant via “Echo Beacon”. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/07/110728-plants-bats-sonar-pollination-animals-environment/

How animals see the world?

Have you ever heard that dogs see in black and white? Or that cats can see in the dark? Why we have our eyes in front of the face? And why goats have an horizontal pupil? This article will answer these and other questions about the eyes and vision, focusing on mammals.

HOW IMAGES ARE FORMED?

The eyes are the receptors responsible for capturing light and sending the signal through the optic nerve to the brain, which make the interpretation. Light is an electromagnetic wave as infrared, ultraviolet, X rays, microwaves, etc. In this post we will refer to visible light, that is, the part of the spectrum that can perceive humans and most mammals.

eye parts
Parts of the eye. Source

Basically, the light passes through the pupil. It can regulate the amount of light thanks to the muscles associated with iris (which gives color to the eye). The lens focuses the objects. The image is projected inverted in the retina, to be sent as an electrical signal to the brain.

WHY DO WE SEE IN COLOR ?

In the retina there are two main types of photoreceptor cells: cons and rods. The main differences are:

RODS
  • More sensitive in a few light conditions
  • No color vision
  • Motion-sensitive
  • Less image detail
CONES
  • Activated under conditions of high light
  • Color vision
  • Contrast-sensitive
  • High image detail

That’s why in low light, vertebrates see in black and white and the image is not clear, since the rods are activated at maximum but the cones are inactive. Some primates have three different kinds of cones (trichromatic vision), which correspond to the red, green and blue colour (RGB). Some primates and other animals have monochromatic vision (they only have one type of cone) or dichromatic (two). Some animals have tetrachromic vision, like birds.

The cones are sensitive to different wavelengths, different colors. Photo taken from Colombian Primatological Association

Generalizing a lot, diurnal vertebrates have more cones than rods and nocturnal ones have more rods than cones, allowing them to see better in the dark. But they can really see in the dark?

SEEING IN THE DARK

In total absence of light it is impossible to see, although some animals can detect other radiation such as infrared (snakes) or ultraviolet (bees). In addition to the relation between rods and cones, other factors that improve vision in low light conditions are:

THE CORNEA

The bigger the eye and the cornea, the better use of light. The mammal with the greatest cornea in relation to the eye is the Philippine tarsier (Carlito syrichta ) a nightlife primate.

Philippines’ tarsier (photo: Yeo Kok Leng)

THE PUPIL

Another way to take advantadge of few light conditions is increasing the size of the pupil. According to the shape of it, the control of incoming light is more precise: it is the case of many cats. Compared with a round pupil, the elongated one opens and closes sideways and according to the position of the eyelid, pupil surface exposed to light can be controlled better.

The felines with vertical pupil can open it horizontally and control better the entry light than with a circular pupil. Image of an unknown author, adapted from Aquàrium-Liège Museum

 

THE TAPETUM LUCIDUM

Cats, dogs, bats, horses, whales, crocodiles, cattle and some nocturnal primates have in the retina or behind it a bright layer called tapetum lucidum, which increases up to 6 times the light gathering ability compared to humans. As if it were a mirror, the tapetum lucidum reflects the light reaching the eye to return back to the retina and harness light to the maximum.

Reflection of light due to the tapetum lucidum. Image taken from Exclusively cats

The tapetum lucidum is responsible for cat’s eyes appearing to glow in the dark and cat and dog’s pupils shine in blue/green when light falls upon the eye.

Tapetum lucidum shining on a dog. Photo Mireia Querol

WHY SOME ANIMALS HAVE THE EYES IN FRONT OF THE FACE WHILE OTHERS HAVE THEM ON THE SIDES ?

The position of the eye in mammals can be frontal, like a cat, or in the side, like a rabbit. This means distinct advantages:

  • Binocular vision (stereoscopic): allows a good estimation of distance, but the field of view is smaller. A 3D image is generated. It is typical of carnivores that should focus attention to their prey or primates that should calculate the distance between the branches.
  • Side vision (peripheral): allows each eye to send a different signals to the brain, so it is easier to notice their surroundings having a field of view of about 360 degrees. It is typical of herbivores, which must pay attention to the presence of potential predators .

    Visual field of a cat and a horse. The blind area is smaller in hervibores. Source: Sjaastad, Sand and O. Hove K. Photo taken from Eye Opener

WHY GOATS HAVE AN HORIZONTAL PUPIL?

In addition to the position of the eyes, the shape of the pupil is also related if you are a predator or a prey. Goats or horses have horizontal pupils, while cats like the margay have it vertical.

Pupil of a goat (horizontal) and a cat (vertical) Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Banks  says that “to calculate distances predators basis on stereoscopic vision (works better with a small pupil) and sharpness (works best with a larger one). Vertical pupils are small horizontally and large vertically”.

In the case of terrestrial prey attacked by predators, the tendency of the pupil is being horizontally because “can gather more light and and also reduces the sunlight, which could dazzle “. Exceptions such as rabbits or mice with a circular pupil, are because they have to pay attention also to the sky, from where a bird of prey can attack.

WHAT IS THE THIRD EYELID?

Some animals have the nictitating membrane (“third eyelid”), a transparent or translucent membrane that is used to protect and moisten the eye without losing visibility. Camels, seals and polar bears have it complete, whereas in other mammals, such as dogs or humans remains only reduced.

Nictitating membrane in a feline. Photo by Editor B

IS IT TRUE THAT DOGS AND BULLS SEE IN BLACK AND WHITE ?

Actually dogs and cats are able to detect colors, particularly gray, yellow and blue in softer tones. Cats may be able to perceive more colours.

Visible spectrum by a dog and a human. Source

In the case of bulls, it is also spread the myth that rage against the red colour or see in black and white. Actually bulls have dichromatic vision, like most diurnal mammals, since they only have blue and green cones. Therefore, they can’t see red, but it does not mean they see in black and white.

AND OTHER MAMMALS?

Horses see in blue and red tones. Most rodents see in black and white. Most species of the family of goats, sheeps and bulls see from green to violet. In addition, recent studies indicate that many mammals (especially nocturnal ones), contrary to what was believed, also can perceive ultraviolet radiation: rats and mice, reindeer, possibly cats and dogs, cows, pigs, ferrets, okapi…

We finish with a BuzzFeed video with the simulation of vision of some animals. If you have more questions about animal’s vision leave it in the comments!

REFERENCES

Evolution for beginners 2: coevolution

After the success of Evolution for beginners, today we’ll continue  knowing the basics of biological evolution. Why  exist insects that seem orchids and vice versa? Why gazelles and cheetahs are almost equally fast? Why your dog understands you? In other words, what is coevolution?

WHAT IS COEVOLUTION?

We know that it is inevitable that living beings establish symbiotic relationships between them. Some depend on others to survive, and at the same time, on elements of their environtment as water, light or air. These mutual pressures between species make that evolve together, and as one evolve as a species, in turn it forces the other to evolve. Let’s see some examples:

POLLINATION

The most known process of coevolution is pollination. It was actually the first co-evolutionary study (1859) by Darwin, although he didn’t use that term. The first to use the word coevolution were Ehrlich and Raven (1964).

Insects existed long before the appearance of flowering plants, but their success was due to the discovery that nectar is a good reserve of energy. In turn, the plants found in the insects another way more effectively to carry pollen to another flower. Pollination by the wind (anemophily) requires more production of pollen and a good dose of luck to at least fertilize some flowers of the same species. Many plants have developed flowers that trap insects until they are covered with pollen and then set them free. These insects have hairs in their body to enable this process. In turn some animals have developed long appendages (beaks of hummingbirds, butterflies’ proboscis…) to access the nectar.

Polilla de Darwin (Xantophan morganii praedicta). Foto de Minden Pictures/Superstock
Darwin’s moth (Xantophan morganii praedicta). Photo by Minden Pictures/Superstock

It is the famous case of the Darwin’s moth (Xanthopan morganii praedicta) of which we have already talked about. Charles Darwin, studying orchid Christmas (Angraecum sesquipedale) saw that the nectar was 29 cm inside the flower. He sensed that there should exist an animal with a proboscis of this size. Eleven years later, Alfred Russell Wallace reported him that the Morgan’s sphinxs had proboscis over 20 cm long, and a time later they were found in the same area where Darwin had studied that species of orchid (Madagascar). In honor of both it was added “praedicta” to the scientific name.

There are also bee orchids that mimic female insects to ensure their pollination. To learn more about these orchids and the Christmas one, do not miss this post by Adriel.

Anoura fistulata, murcielago, bat
The bat Anoura fistulata and its long tongue. Photo by Nathan Muchhala

But many plants not only depend on insects, also some birds (like humming birds) and mammals (such as bats) are essential to pollination. The record for the longest mammal tongue in the world is for a bat from Ecuador (Anoura fistulata); its tongue measures 8 cm (150% of the length of its body). It is the only who pollinates one plant called Centropogon nigricans, despite the existence of other species of bats in the same habitat of the plant. This raises the question of whether evolution is well defined, and occurs between pairs of species or it is diffuse due to the interaction of multiple species.

PREDATOR-PREY RELATIONSHIPS

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the fastest vertebrate on land (up to 115 km/h). Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii), the second (up to 80 km/h). Cheetahs have to be fast enough to catch a gazelle (but not all, at risk of disappearing themselves) and gazelles fast enough to escape almost once and reproduce. The fastest gaelles survive, so nature selects in turn faster cheetahs, which are who eat to survive. The pressure from predators is an important factor that determines the survival of a population and what strategies should follow the population to survive. Also, the predators will find solutions to possible new ways of life of their prey to succeed.

Guepardo persiguiendo una gacela. Foto de Federico Veronesi
Cheetah hunting a Thomson’s gazelle in Kenya. Photo by Federico Veronesi

The same applies to other predator-prey relationships, parasite-host relationships, plants-herbivores, improving their speed or other survival strategies like poison, spikes…

HUMAN AND DOGS … AND BACTERIA

Our relationship with dogs since prehistoric times, it is also a case of coevolution. This allows, for example, to create bonds with just looking at them. If you want more information, we invite you to read this post where we talk about the issue of the evolution of dogs and humans in depth.

Another example is the relationship we have established with the bacteria in our digestive system, essential for our survival. Or with pathogens: they have co-evolved with our antibiotics, so using them indiscriminately has favored these species of bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COEVOLUTION

Coevolution is one of the main processes responsible for the great biodiversity of the Earth. According to Thompson, is responsible for the millions of species that exist instead of thousands.

The interactions that have been developed with coevolution are important for the conservation of species. In cases where evolution has been very close between two species, if one become extint will lead to the extinction of the other almost certainly. Humans constantly alter ecosystems and therefore biodiversity and evolution of species. Just declining one species, we are affecting many more. This is the case of the sea otter (Enhydra lutris), which feeds on sea urchins.

Nutria marina (Enhydra lutris) comiendo erizos. Foto de Vancouver Aquarium
Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) eating sea urchins. Photo by Vancouver Aquarium

Being hunted for their fur, urchins increased number, devastated entire populations of algae (consumer of CO2, one of the responsible of global warming), seals who found refuge in the algae nonexistent now were more hunted by killer whales… the sea otter is therefore a key species for the balance of this ecosystem and the planet, as it has evolved along with urchins and algae.

Coevolutive relations between flowers and animals depend on the pollination of thousands of species, including many of agricultural interest, so we must not lose sight of the seriousness of the issue of the disappearance of a large number of bees and other insects in recent years. A complex case of coevolution that directly affects us is the reproduction of fig.

TO SUMMARIZE

As we have seen, coevolution is the evolutionary change through natural selection between two or more species that interact reciprocally.

It is needed:

  • Specificity: the evolution of each feature of a species is due  to selective pressures of the feature of the other species.
  • Reciprocity: features evolve together.
  • Simultaneity: features evolve simultaneously.

REFERENCES

MIREIA QUEROL ALL YOU NEED IS BIOLOGY