Rabbits like to eat plants with lots of DNA

Rabbits like to eat plants with lots of DNA
Rabbit in Skomer, Wales, which is a similar habitat to the experimental plots. Credit: Dr. Lizzie Wilberforce

Rabbits prefer to eat plants with plenty of DNA, according to a new study by Queen Mary University of London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The researchers also found that it is the opposite for invertebrates, like snails and insects, as they prefer to eat plants with much less DNA.

Many factors influence what herbivores such as rabbits eat but the role of , which is the amount of DNA in an organism's cells, in herbivore-plant interaction was unknown.

In this study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers suggest that genome size should be used as a new measure to improve ecological models which are designed to predict how will respond to ecological change, caused by climate or altered for example.

However, while the results suggest which plants rabbits and invertebrates prefer, they could also show that these plants are simply recovering more slowly after being eaten.

Professor Andrew Leitch, joint-lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, said: "We demonstrate that genome size plays a role in influencing plant-herbivore interactions, and suggest the inclusion of genome size in ecological models has the potential to expand our understanding of plant productivity and community ecology under nutrient and herbivore stress."

The study was carried out on grassland west of London, where herbivores have been excluded for eight years.

The researchers analysed plots that were then grazed by rabbits or grazed by invertebrates, like snails and insects, to determine which plants grew the most. They found that plants responded in different ways, depending on the herbivore.

It is thought that rabbits may favour plant species with large genomes because they are more nutritious, given that a plant genome is a rich package of proteins and needed by animals to build their own cells.

Invertebrates meanwhile are likely to have established themselves as specialists on with small genomes because there are more available to them.

Plant genome sizes can vary hugely, with the largest at least 2,400 times bigger than the smallest. This has an impact on how and where can live and this study shows that species are differentially impacted by different types of herbivores depending on how much DNA is in each of their cells.

Dr. Ilia Leitch, from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, added: "We argue that genome size needs to be considered in ecological models that are describing ecological processes. The functionality of these ecological models is essential if we are to establish good policy to mitigate against the negative effects of climate change, changing land use, eutrophication of our environment and to conserve our endangered species."


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More information: Interactions between plant genome size, nutrients and herbivory by rabbits, molluscs and insects on a temperate grassland, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2018.2619
Citation: Rabbits like to eat plants with lots of DNA (2019, March 19) retrieved 16 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-rabbits-lots-dna.html
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User comments

Mar 19, 2019
Wow. Author is trying hard to link rabbits eating DNA to climate change. When will this nonsense stope?

Mar 20, 2019
well bart, probably never.

I'm guessing you are just another slacker layabout hiding in his mommy's basement & have no experience in the workplace.

When the alarms go pff?
It's time to start paying real close attention to what is going om around you.

Another guess is, you are either home schooled or church schooled?
So you were never taught any useful advice. hmmph?
Such as
"The canary is in a coal mine for a reason. Disregarding it's purpose is detrimental to your health & survival."

Bow apply that basic lesson in survival to the rest of the environment. Then you night comprehend why, what a rabbit chooses to eat can effect your own chances of survival,

bart, you can hide from the world all you want but that attitude accomplishes nothing that will benefit you.

This is the only Habitable Living World available. Save it to savr yourself.

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