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Hidden economies September 28, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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The last couple of days has seen a news story breaking breaking under our noses. A useless (well, at least to us) little plant, the Dodder Plant, has a ‘nose’ for tomatos.

From the International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON The parasitic dodder plant does not have a nose, but it knows how to sniff out its prey.

The dodder attacks such plants as tomatoes, carrots, onions, citrus trees, cranberries, alfalfa and even flowers, and is a problem for farmers because chemicals that kill the pesky weed also damage the crops it feeds on.

The rest of the article concerns itself about the basics of the mechanisms that the dodder plant uses to locate tomato hosts. All very interesting. And I am truly not being sarcastic.

But, what is more interesting is that we have another clue to something that literally steals food from our tables. When a dodder plant successfully infects a tomato plant, it’s production is severely reduced. Estimates of dodder plant infestation of tomato crops is that the reduction in yield may be up to 75%.

Elsewhere, estimates of the effects of parasitism on the food chain vary wildly, but viral parasites in the oceans may account for half of the energy economy of the ocean. By ‘eating’ photosynthetic bacteria, they remove them from the useful food chain that everything from the tiny shrimp that are commonly called krill, on up to the largest animals such as the whales, rely on.

Parasites have been acknowledged for many years, some of the oldest medical literature known deals with solutions to parasitic diseases. Kosher dietary laws may have been formulate with the common trichinosis parasite in mind. But it wasn’t until very recently that we began to understand them, and appreciate their significance in our lives.

I’ll leave you with this parting thought. That anonymous dust that you vacuum off the floors on a regular basis? Individuals from a family of common mites (arthropods, similar to spiders) called Dermatophagoides lives everywhere in our homes, from our bedclothes to the nooks and crannies of our rooms. Literally hundreds of thousands of them can be found everywhere you look. They feed on and reduce the skin flecks that you shed on a regular basis to the dust that you see. As you breath that dust, you breath the mites in. About 30% of us will give positive skin reactions to them, indicating that they have at some point in time excited our immune system. We were infected.

Sleep well. You’ve got lots of company 🙂

Life and Hearts is in session. Are you ready to “Hunt the bitch?”

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