Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

10 Incredible Plant Facts You Didn't Know

Food
10 Incredible Plant Facts You Didn't Know

By Kevin Mathews

1. The earth has more than 80,000 species of edible plants.

If you’re ever in the mood to try something new, the good news is that there is certainly food you haven’t tasted yet still growing somewhere in the world. You’ll probably have some trouble finding it, however, because …

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

2. 90 percent of the foods humans eat come from just 30 plants.

Out of tens of thousands of plants we could eat, mankind chooses to consume only about 30 of them. It’s crazy to contemplate how limited our diets are compared to all of the different foods we could be eating. If you think the selection of which plants we eat has anything to do with their nutritional benefits, however, you’d be wrong …

3. Nutrition doesn't factor into the crops we do mass produce.

The world’s largest farmers have pursued certain crops because they can grow a lot of them more quickly, easily and inexpensively to turn a better profit. As a result, most of the most healthful plants stay off of our dinner plates because they aren’t available at grocery stores. Still, sustenance isn’t the only thing humans rely on plants for …

4. 70,000 plant species are utilized for medicine.

As it turns out, humans are more diversified in the plants we use for medicine. Although a large portion of that figure applies to traditional medicine, modern medicine is not excepted from plant help. Half of the drugs prescribed in the U.S. have plant origins, many coming out of the rainforest, yet …

5. Only one percent of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal potential.

Given how valuable plants can be medicinally, the rainforest houses a host of possible cures for ailments new and old. This untapped resource could still hold the key to medical breakthroughs. Of course, a lot of this potential could be lost considering …

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

6. 80 percent of the Earth's original forests have been cleared or destroyed.

The same forests that dominated the land 8,000 years ago are all but gone. Approximately four-fifths of the forests are gone thanks to human intervention—just think of how many plant species may have been lost in that process. If you thought protections were in place, actually …

7. Just 10 percent of the world's plant-rich areas are protected.

Of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, only 10 percent are officially “protected” to ensure the survival of a multitude of species—plant and animal alike. Worse still, many of the supposedly protected areas are done so nominally only, leaving plants threatened by external factors they should be safeguarded from. This is especially problematic because …

8. More than half of plant species are native to just one country.

Chances are, a plant you find in one part of the world is not currently growing anywhere else. As plant habitat is ruined, there’s little point in hoping that the killed plants could be found and harvested somewhere else in the future. For this reason …

9. 68 percent of plants are in danger of going extinct.

While scientists have only examined a fraction of the existing known plant species, of those that have been studied, 68 percent face extinction in the not too distant future. Since plants can’t just up and move as their habitat is being destroyed, they are even more vulnerable than endangered animals. It’s happening quickly, too, since …

10. Plant species are going extinct—about 5,000 times faster than they should.

Some will argue that species would go extinct even without human interference. While that’s certainly true, it’s the rate that plants are dying off that raises alarm. Thanks to climate change, deforestation and other human-influence factors, experts believe that species are going extinct somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times faster than they would naturally.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERISTY and FOOD pages for more related news on this topic.

 

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins

Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.

Read More Show Less
The left image shows the OSIRIS-REx collector head hovering over the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) after the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism arm moved it into the proper position for capture. The right image shows the collector head secured onto the capture ring in the SRC. NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin

A NASA spacecraft has successfully collected a sample from the Bennu asteroid more than 200 million miles away from Earth. The samples were safely stored and will be preserved for scientists to study after the spacecraft drops them over the Utah desert in 2023, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Read More Show Less
Exxon Mobil Refinery is seen from the top of the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on March 5, 2017. WClarke / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 4.0

Exxon Mobil will lay off an estimated 14,000 workers, about 15% of its global workforce, including 1,900 workers in the U.S., the company announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch