What We’re Reading: Oct 23, 2015

Identifying High and Low Yielding Palm Fruit Varieties
Ask a conservationist about palm oil, and prepare for a nasty answer. Palm oil plantations have been planted across much of SE Asia, thereby removing natural habitat for many species such as orangutans. The plantations are so prevalent because palm oil makes it into many of the products and processed foods we eat. Since demand is high, high-yielding varieties may be looked upon positivity as a way to produce more palm oil on less land. However, some varieties bred to be high-yielding are not and show a “mantled” fruit type which is an early indication of a low-yielding plant. New research (sub) identified that differential methylation of a retrotransposon, Karma, effected the mantled trait. Therefore, assaying for the hypo- or hyper- methylated state may identify plant yield before waiting for the fruits to form.

Conservationists should ask, are these results a positive or negative for biodiversity conservation in the region? Will removal of low-yielding plants save land, or will ever increasing yield drive demand?

Ecotourism Might Change Predator-Prey Dynamics
Animals have varying experiences with humans that may influence their behavior. At the extreme end is domestication, in which animals can develop very close relationships with humans and cohabitate. Ecotourism, is often though to have minimal impacts on animals, but the presence of humans, may cause changes in their behavior that may expose individuals to higher predation risk or poaching.

Wild Fashion
Nature inspires fashion designers to create functional fashion that can aid in conservation and push the limits of technology. In addition to the link above, check out our series on the animals of fashion including: leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and zebras. For a plant-centric perspective, see the Met’s new book: Bloom.


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