Now try this

4 months ago Comments Off on Now try this

IF HUMAN beings could have conversations with animals, many a conservationist would bring up the subject of invasive plants. “Try this one,” they would plead with their fauna. “It’s new, it may take some getting used to, but it’s nutritious. And it really, really needs a natural enemy around here.”

Such a meeting of minds has taken place, after a fashion, in Hungary. The animals in question are rabbits. A group of biologists led by Vilmos Altbäcker of Kaposvar University have persuaded these lagomorphs to add common milkweed to their diet.

Milkweeds are native to North America, and famous there as host of the caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. Elsewhere, though, they can be pests, for they are poisonous to many grazing animals, notably cattle, sheep and horses. But not to rabbits, at least not the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, that has been overwhelming Kiskunsag National Park in Hungary. When confined to cages, and offered little other food, rabbits will eat it and thrive.

That is a far cry from persuading wild rabbits of milkweed’s virtues. But Dr Altbäcker thought this could be…Continue reading
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