Spiky things and evolution

We’ve been in the mountains and arid regions quite a bit and have noticed how many more spiky and bristly plants, rosehip, thistles, small bushes whose chlorophyll carriers are all spikes, there are here as compared to temperate climates. Now, I am no biologist, let alone a botanist but while hiking, it was fun to speculate:

  • Have spikes been selected for because it is too costly to replace eaten foliage in resource-poor areas? After all, the prime example for spikes are cacti and off the top of my head, it seems to me that the natural habitat of needled trees in Europe is mountains and sandy areas.
  • Or is there some indirect beneficial effect? After all, there are also numerous plants here that have not developed spikes and those often grown interspersed with the spiky ones. Maybe the spike carriers reduce the chance for non-spikies to lose foliage and in return the non-spikies benefit the spikies, by soil improvment or some such.
  • Or the indirect effect might be with regard to small animals. We’ve heard more than one small animals rustle below spiky plants but seeing them was hard and getting at them is impossible without getting torn up. So those plants offer protection to rodents and such against predators, and again, this might indirectly benefit them.

This is just one of the situations that illustrates how religion sucks. Organized religion’s answer is basically: “because the creator made it this way” and case closed. I have much more fun the atheist way.

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