Lecture 1 – Plant wars
Since animals emerged on land more than 300 million years ago, they've turned to plants as a source of food. But despite deploying their best modes of attack, surprisingly, animals only manage to eat around a fifth of the vegetation that’s available to them. So why don't they eat more?
In her first lecture of the series, Sue Hartley explains why animals have a harder time than we think when it comes to eating plants, whilst Adam squirms as he eats the world’s hottest chilli.
About the 2009 CHRISTMAS LECTURES
Over the past 300 million years, plants have had to put up a fight against everything from dinosaurs to hungry caterpillars. But their startling array of defence mechanisms – including poisonous chemicals and cunning ways of communicating with allies – tell us they’re not as helpless as they look.
In this series of five lectures, Professor Sue Hartley explores the fight between plants and their predators, revealing the tricks plants hold up their sleeves, and how much of our daily lives – from our food to our drugs – is a by-product of this great war.
Sue explains the way plants have evolved to defend themselves, and how herbivores have evolved to overcome this in return. We also see how modern agricultural methods are allowing us to manipulate plants to suit our own needs, and how the changes in our climate may ultimately determine whether it is plants or animals that win the war.