Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.
All photos and text by Maymie Higgins
This month at The Whisker Chronicles, we will focus on specific plants and animals that are well-known for their interwoven roles in pollination and seed dispersal.
According to my college biology textbook, pollination is the transfer of pollen from pollen cone to seed cone in gymnosperms or the transfer of pollen from anther to stigma in angiosperms.
Seed dispersal is the distribution of seeds that occurs in the form of fruit in certain plants and in others, seeds may be blown by the wind, attached to animals that carry them away, eaten by animals that defecate them elsewhere or get carried away in some form of moving water.
Here is my perspective of pollination and seed dispersal. They are each a successful, dynamic and sophisticated matrix of bioactivity that includes interactions between plants, animals, the four classical elements of fire, water, air and earth that result in the propagation of plants and the nourishment of animals and humans. Think of it as the information superhighway if it were run largely by insects and birds with some animals helping out in longer range deliveries as well as technical support via digestive processes.
In pollination, flowering plants, known as angiosperms, produce pollen that is necessary for making seeds that will make more of the same kind of plants. But first the pollen must make its way from one part of the flower to another. Fortunately, pollen also serves as food for some animals. When an animal eats or collects pollen (or eats nectar) at several flowers, some of the pollen sticks to the animal’s body so the animal is also serving as transportation for the pollen, which is inadvertently redistributed as the animal moves from flower to flower. Hence, both the flowers and the animal are receiving benefit. In biology, this is called a mutualistic relationship.
What makes pollination so awesome is the fact that it happens daily all over the planet, with millions of animals engaged in feeding from pollinating plants. In doing so, they are insuring future generations of multiple plant species across a multitude of ecosystems. These activities often insure bountiful crops of food for humans too.
Seed dispersal is where the long-range transport often occurs. When a plant produces a ripened ovary that contains seeds, it is said to have produced fruit. There are many types of fruit; simple, compound, fleshy and dry, and they each have special qualities that aid in their dispersal. I imagine there are cherry tree saplings all over my part of the county thanks to birds that ate from my cherry tree and then dive-bombed seeds all around the region.
A fascinating thing about seed dispersal is that some seeds actually must pass through the digestive system of animals before germination can occur. Also, in places where fires are a part of the normal climate, there are seed types that require a pass through fire in order to germinate.
Enjoy this video clip from Disney’s Wings of Life, The Beauty of Pollination-Moving Art. Wings of Life is a film about the threat to essential pollinators that produce over a third of the food we eat.