DANTE FENOLIO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DANTE FENOLIO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The Amazon River is home to a wide variety of plant and animal communities, constantly interacting with one another. Plant-animal interactions are more obvious in the Queen Victoria lilies (Victoria spp.). One Victoria species (V. regis) has a white flower that can reach nearly 2 feet (.7m) in diameter. These giant water lilies can have lily pads that exceed 5 feet (1.7m) in diameter. But the real story comes into play beneath the lily pads. The underside of the pads, all of the stems, shoots, and even the flowers are covered with hardened needles. The spines prevent fish from grazing on the tender tissues of the plant. The undersurface of the lily pads are also compartmentalized. The pockets trap gasses and help suspend the massive lily pads on the surface of the water. So sturdy are the pads that very small children have been photographed sitting, unsupported, on the pads. This shot taken in 2008.
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