Sunday, 4 September 2016


Practice Question
A recent New Zealand study compared the size, shape and pigmentation of hundreds of leaves of Pseudowintera axillaris (horopito, also known as the New Zealand pepper tree) and small Alseuosmia macrophylla (toropapa) plants, and found a match. Over a third of the leaves of the two species cannot be statistically distinguished from one another.  Toropapa were possibly eaten by moa before the arrival of humans quickly decimated the moa population.  Unless the plants are flowering or fruiting, the only fast way to tell them apart is to taste a leaf.  Horopito leaves a pungent, hot peppery taste and a numb tongue when the leaf is chewed, while toropapa is highly palatable.
Small toropapa (left) and horopito seedling (right)

Name and describe the relationship between Pseudowintera axillaris and Alseuosmia macrophylla. Discuss the adaptive advantages and disadvantages of the relationship to the two species of New Zealand flora, including any survival strategies they employ.
Things to include in my answer:
  • Name the relationship
  • Adaptive advantages/disadvantages of relationship 
The relationship could be commensalism, but commensalism is when one benefits and the other is unaffected, but because of mimicry is affected because it could probably get eaten.  The harmless plant looks like the poisonous one.  The harmless plant could get eaten and because the harmless plant looks similar to the poisonous one,  they might think the poisonous plant is also harmless.  Advantages of this is that the harmless plant is less likely to get eaten.  Disadvantages of this is that the poisonous plant is more likely to get eaten.