Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Chameleon Vine

A woody vine called Boquila trifoliolata can transform its leaves to copy a variety of host trees, the first case of such mimicry observed in the plant world:
Native to Chile and Argentina, B. trifoliolata is the first plant shown to imitate several hosts. It is a rare quality—known as a mimetic polymorphism—that was previously observed only in butterflies, according to this study, published today in Current Biology. When the vine climbs onto a tree’s branches, its versatile leaves (inset) can change their size, shape, color, orientation, and even the vein patterns to match the surrounding foliage (middle panel; the red arrow points to the vine, while the blue arrow indicates the host plant). If the vine crosses over to a second tree, it changes, even if the new host leaves are 10 times bigger with a contrasting shape (right panel). The deceit serves as a defense against plant-eating herbivores like weevils and leaf beetles, according the researchers.
No clue yet as to how the plant does this, but it is more likely to be something it senses in the genes of the host plant than an ability to sense directly what other leaves look like.

1 comment:

Shadow Flutter said...

"No clue yet as to how the plant does this, but it is more likely to be something it senses in the genes of the host plant than an ability to sense directly what other leaves look like."

I keep going back and forth as to which of these two choices is more awe inspiring.