Moose drool can undermine grass defenses

Moose drool can undermine grass defenses

Saliva from big grazing animals sabotages plants’ chemical weaponry

By Susan Milius, 18:22 PM July 22, 2014

The slobbering of moose and reindeer as they eat may be big, wet countermeasures against the chemical defenses of grasses.

Some otherwise inviting grasses harbor live-in fungi such as Epichloë species, which can produce strong alkaloid toxins. Those compounds can make grazing animals sick enough to shy away from these grasses. Big animals, however, have a previously unappreciated way of fighting back, says ecologist Andrew Tanentzap of the University of Cambridge: They drool.

In lab tests, moo...

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