Evolutionary Chicanery


How smelly seeds outsmart dung beetles!

Who would have thought that a plant in the Cape Floral Kingdom (a unique vegetation type called fynbos) would have come up with a trick to convince dung beetles that its seeds are antelope dung, duping the beetles into burying its seeds, as they would with dung?

This deceptive piece of evolution enables the plant to get its seeds buried underground, safe from fire and ready to sprout.
How the plants do this is by making their seeds smell like dung, which the beetles gather in a ball, lay their eggs in and bury, or eat.

The findings of University of Cape Town scientist Jeremy Midgely’s research were published in Nature Plants, calling it one of the best examples of biomimicry for seed dispersion anywhere in the world.

Acknowledgement Melanie Gosling, Environment writer: Cape Times & the picture is of De Hoop Nature Reserve where Midgley conducted his research

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