Plant Evolves to Become Less Visible to Humans → #
Research has shown that a plant commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine has been evolving in order to evade humans.
Scientists found that Fritillaria delavayi plants, which live on rocky slopes of China's Hengduan mountains, match their backgrounds most closely in areas where they are heavily harvested.
This suggests humans are "driving" evolution of this species into new colour forms because better-camouflaged plants have a higher chance of survival.
In the new study, the researchers measured how closely plants from different populations matched their mountain environment and how easy they were to collect, and spoke to local people to estimate how much harvesting took place in each location.
They found that the level of camouflage in the plants was correlated with harvesting levels.
In a computer experiment, more-camouflaged plants also took longer to be detected by people.
At first glance, this research seemed novel. Humans being the cause of a plants evolution. But it's not novel at all. We are animals, and like every other animal, we shape and are shaped by our environment.
It's interesting because we don't usually think of ourselves as being part of nature. But discoveries like this will only change that.
(Photo credit: Yang Niu)