Monkey puzzle trees outlived dinosaurs and are endangered!

Monkey puzzle trees outlived dinosaurs and are endangered!

Updated on August 17, 2022 22:49 PM by Emily Hazel

The ancient monkey puzzle tree has spiny leaves and intricate scaly branches. The tree has an unusual feature that scientists had a defense against towering, long-neck dinosaurs. The evergreen tree is about 160 feet tall and has lived millennia. The tree is a survivor from the Jurassic era, more than 145 million years ago.

Endangered tree!

The monkey puzzles tree grows where the fires, land clearance, overgrazing, and logging have shrunk the temperate forest. Cultivated monkey puzzle trees grow in gardens and parks around the world, but wild species grow along the slopes of Patagonia's volcanoes in Chile and Argentina. The seeds were a large, prized food source for an endemic bird species, the austral parakeet.

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More than 15 birds flit from tree to tree to find a good spot to fatten up for the winter. Birds hit the jackpot as they can swell to over 100 and gorge on monkey puzzle pine nuts.

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About the parakeets!

The marauding parakeet's appetite for the nuts could be helping the monkey puzzle trees survive in Patagonia. Parakeets take the pine nuts and consume them from a treetop perch dozens of feet away. The birds act as a buffer against the threat posed by humans overheating the nuts. The partial removal of the seed coat by parakeets enhanced the germination speed of monkey puzzle seeds.

Two study authors, Gabriela Gleiser and Karina Speziale explained that the parakeets play an important role in the regeneration of the araucaria forests as the eaten seeds left on the ground are not selected by seed collectors, and they retain the germination. The parakeets disperse the trees' seeds that regenerate further away from the mother plant. Both authors investigate as the parakeet's flap from branch to spiny branch, pollinating the female cones.  

Also Read: The evergreen tree that outlasted the dinosaurs is now endangered

The parakeets are a traditional food source for Chile's and Argentina's Indigenous Mapuche people as they climb the monumental trees to collect trees that can be baked into bread. The nuts larger than almonds are also eaten widely in the two countries. The Mapuche is right to collect nuts in their ancestral areas that can be collected for personal and commercial purposes.

Seed collection!

The human seed collection is an important threat to the monkey puzzle tree's reproduction in those populations that are accessible to people, as illegal seed collectors almost deplete the seed pools produced by the trees. The parakeets damaged the nuts that were discarded by collectors where eaten nuts used to germinate.

The lifestyle of the Mapuche is with the monkey puzzle tree that is almost broken beyond colonial times and up to the 1990s. The Mapuche replanting Araucaria trees and rediscovered their ancient ancestral practices and the goal of this is to cultivate pine nuts and allow the Araucaria to thrive again. The monkey puzzle trees are protected by law across Patagonia.

Related: Monkey Puzzle, the tree that outlasted the dinosaurs but might not survive humankind

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