ConesThis photo was taken along the fence of one of the many construction sites in Jurong East. On the way to lunch, I’d noticed something sitting on top of the edge of that corrugated fence, and on closer inspection that turned out to be a conifer cone. And it wasn’t alone – there were at least six other cones perched on top of that sharp edge. That mystifies me.

The mystery is not so much what they are, although that would be interesting, too. The mystery is how they got there.

Each one of them has obviously been forced onto the fence such that the sharp edge cut into the cone deep enough to keep the cone stuck on top of the fence. But who did that?

Could they have fallen off the tree and onto the edge with enough momentum and in just the right position not to be deflected and bounce off? What are the chances of that happening seven times in a row? How high above the fence would the branches have to be for that to work?

Were the cones placed there by a squirrel, or a bird, to get to the seeds inside more easily? Which bird, squirrel or other mystery creature could be strong and dexterous enough to pull that off (or push that on, as it were)?

I can think of a number of experiments to investigate this phenomenon. How would you try to solve this mystery?


Posted by:Andy Giger

Andy is the Science Centre Singapore's Director of Strategy. He is a Neuroscientist who started out studying how Tunisian desert ants navigate, then tamed honey bees to find out more about their visual system, and moved on to counting cockroaches, feeding termites and attracting mosquitoes. Now he deals more with people, and enjoys being in touch with science on a much broader basis.

3 replies on “Another plant-related mystery

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