A very interesting article has recently been brought to my attention and I could not pass the opportunity to write a post about it!
Researchers at York University (a.k.a. our very own Dr. Bazely!) discovered that moose saliva could help control a potentially dangerous toxin found in the grass they eat.
We learned in class, through Dr. Bazely’s lectures as well as the ones our peers have presented about fungal endophytes. They modify plant-herbivore interactions due to their production of toxic alkaloids, acting as a defence against herbivory. Unlike many other studies that looked only at the effect of endophytes on herbivores, this study that Dr. Bazely and Dr. Vicari (our Biodiversity professor) conducted analyzed the effects that herbivores have on endophytes. Moose and reindeer saliva was obtained from the animals at the Toronto Zoo and applied to red fescue (Festuca rubra) grass. The results of the experiment showed that both the moose and the reindeer saliva reduced the growth of endophyte hyphae in comparison to the control treatment of distilled water.
Antifungal properties and signalling effectors in herbivore saliva indicate that certain evolutionary pressures may select for animals that reduce the effects of endophyte-produced alkaloids in plants.
This was the discovery and very first evidence that ungulate saliva can combat certain evolved plant defences that are produced by a grass–endophyte mutualism.
I think that is very cool (and will definitely be including this in my paper on herbivory)!
Image source: https://pgcpsmess.wordpress.com/tag/alces-alces/
It was even mentioned on CBC!
Ungulate saliva inhibits a grass–endophyte mutualism. Andrew J. Tanentzap, Mark Vicari, Dawn R. Bazely Biol. Lett. 2014 10 20140460; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0460. Published 23 July 2014