Ecology & Zoology

Mammoths and mastodons, the famously fuzzy relatives of elephants that lived in the American midwest, weren't as nomadic as previously believed – or Cincinnati was just a great place to be at the end of the last ice age. A study led by Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology at the University of  Cincinnati, shows the ancient proboscideans enjoyed the area so much they likely were year-round residents and not nomadic migrants as previously thought. 

They even had their own preferred hangouts. Crowley's findings indicate each species kept to separate areas based on availability of favored foods here at the southern edge of the Last Glacial Maximum's major ice sheet.

The size and age of plants has more of an impact on their productivity than temperature and precipitation, according to a landmark study by University of Arizona researchers.

Professor Brian Enquist and postdoctoral researcher Sean Michaletz, along with collaborators Dongliang Cheng from Fujian Normal University in China and Drew Kerkhoff from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, have combined a new mathematical hypothesis with data from more than 1,000 forests across the world to show that climate has a relatively minor direct effect on net primary productivity, or the amount of biomass that plants produce by harvesting sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.  

It's uncommon to identify a new species of mammal these days, but four new species of Ctenomys, a genus of gopher-like mammal commonly called tuco-tucos and found throughout much of South America, have been identified.

Tuco-tucos are burrowing rodents ranging from 7 to 12 inches long and weighing less than a pound. They demonstrate the broad range of biological diversity in the lowlands and central valleys of Bolivia, where all four new species were found.

When global warming happens, Atlantic salmon will likely be just fine. They have shown a surprisingly good capacity to adjust to warmer temperatures that are being seen with climate change.

The finding about Atlantic species adds to similar research about the heat tolerance of Pacific salmon. Scientists studied wild salmon from two European rivers. They compared a cold-water population from Norway's northern Alta River, where water temperatures have not exceeded 18 C for 30 years, with warm-water populations from France's Dordogne River, located 3,000 kilometres south, where annual water temperatures regularly exceed 20 C.

A new study finds that Silverback gorillas appear to use odor as a form of communication with other gorillas.

We're all aware of the concept of an ecological food niche and a web that extends from it - but it is pretty simplistic and easily leads to claims that if species X is used too much, we are doomed. Literate people know that 99.999% of species had gone extinct and we never even knew they existed.

But some are more important than others and so researchers have taught to make that abstract concept real. Biologists in a new paper outlined the position of fourteen fish species in relationship to their food in a four-dimensional food diagram. 

A new systematic review says that no-take zones in Belize are helping rebuildeconomically valuable species such as lobster, conch, and fish - and perhaps also helping to re-colonize nearby reef areas.

The literature in the review was from no-take areas around the world.

According to other papers, the recovery of lobster, conch, and other exploited species within marine protected areas with no-take zones, or fully protected reserves, could take as little as 1-6 years. Full recovery of exploited species, however, could take decades.

If global warming is causing extinction, it isn't happening to Adélie penguins in the Southern Ocean.

Adélie penguins have long been considered a key indicator species to monitor in order to understand the effects of climate change and fishing in the Southern Ocean. New evidence shows that the population is 3.79 million breeding pairs - 53 percent larger than previously estimated.  

The migration of tropical fish poses a serious threat to the areas they invade, because they overgraze on kelp forests and seagrass meadows. The harmful impact of tropical fish is already evident in southern Japanese waters and the eastern Mediterranean, where there have been dramatic declines in kelps.

There is also emerging evidence in Australia and the US that the spread of tropical fish towards the poles is causing damage in the areas they enter.

The authors blame the increased fish on warming oceans due to climate change that have led to hotspots in regions where the currents that transport warm tropical waters towards the poles are strengthening.

Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College have identified a highly specialized ligament structure that is thought to prevent giraffes' legs from collapsing under the immense weight of these animals.

"Giraffes are heavy animals (around 1000 kg), but have unusually skinny limb bones for an animal of this size" explained lead investigator Christ Basu, a PhD student in the Structure&Motion Lab. "This means their leg bones are under high levels of mechanical stress."