Nature's chefs: Uniting the hidden diversity of food making and preparing species across the tree of life
Taylor, B. W., Allf, B., Hopkins, S. R., Irwin, R. E., Jewell, M., Nevo, O., … Dunn, R. R. (2023, April 19). BIOSCIENCE.
Abstract There may be no such thing as a free meal, but many species have evolved mechanisms for other species to consume the literal fruits of their labors. In the present article, inspired by a chef's recognition that such species are “nature's chefs,” we consider food-making species from the plant, animal, and fungal kingdoms, which produce food or mimic food to increase their own fitness. We identify three ways that species can produce or prepare meals—as food, drinks, or lures—and further distinguish between those providing an honest meal and those deceiving consumers with food mimics. By considering these species holistically, we highlight new hypotheses about the ecology and evolution of the widespread phenomenon of organisms that produce food for other organisms. We find surprising and useful generalities and exceptions among species as different as apple trees and anglerfish by examining species interactions across taxa, systems, and disciplines.