Ecology & Zoology

At nearly 100 feet long and weighing as much as 170 tons, the blue whale is the largest creature on the planet, and by far the heaviest living thing ever seen on Earth. So there's no way it could have anything in common with the tiniest fish larvae, which measure millimeters in length and tip the scales at a fraction of a gram, right?

Not so fast, says L. Mahadevan, Professor of Applied Mathematics, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Physics at Harvard. 

Using simple hydrodynamics, Mahadevan and colleagues that a handful of principles govern how virtually every animal -- from the tiniest fish to birds to gigantic whales propel themselves though the water. 


What do leopards in India do when prowling at night? Like with smaller domestic cats in America, evidence from a GoPro video around their necks would probably horrify pet owners, but scat samples for leopards in India's Ahmednagar's district in Maharashtra tell the story.

Leopards mostly eat dogs, it turns out. 

87 percent of their diet was made up of domestic animals, according to  a new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society. And that was mostly pets dog. 39 percent was man's best friend and 15 percent were even other cats. 17 percent was assorted wild animals including rodents, monkeys, and mongoose, and birds.


Wasps in the genus Spasskia (family: Braconidae) have been found for the first time in China, including a species in that genus which is totally new to science.   

The new species, Spasskia brevicarinata, is very small — male and female adults are less than one centimeter long. It is similar to a previously described species called Spasskia indica, but the ridges on some of its body segments are different.

The species epithet brevicarinata reflects a short ridge on its first tergite, as "brevi" is Latin for short and "carinata" is Latin for ridge.


The number of California blue whales has rebounded to near historical levels - and they would be even higher if they didn't run into or get hit by commercial shipping.

Blue whales, nearly 100 feet in length and weighing 190 tons as adults, are the largest animals on earth. And they are the heaviest ever, weighing more than twice as much as the largest known dinosaur, the Argentinosaurus. As a species, they were considered hunted nearly to extinction but new international laws have put enforceable limits on catches of whales and blue whales seem to be the first to have recovered.


Two new species of sea-dwelling, mushroom-shaped organisms have been discovered. 

Scientists classify organisms based on shared characteristics using a taxonomic rank, including kingdom, phylum, and species. In 1986, the authors of this study collected organisms at 400 and 1000 meters deep on the south-east Australian continental slope and only just recently isolated two types of mushroom-shaped organisms that they couldn't classify into an existing phylum.


Parts of the iconic Galapagos Islands have been overrun by invasive plants from other parts of the world, according to  results published in Neobiota which confirm that in the humid highland part of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos National Park, nearly half of the canopy of the vegetation is comprised of non-native trees, shrubs and grasses.
 



Bamboo can also be a tasty snack. Credit: Chris Ison/PA

By Dirk Hebel, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

Bamboo, a common grass which can be harder to pull apart than steel, has the potential to revolutionize building construction throughout the world. But that’s not all. As a raw material found predominantly in the developing world, without a pre-existing industrial infrastructure built to skew things towards the rich world, bamboo has the potential to completely shift international economic relations.

Corals, whose calcium-carbonate skeletons form the foundation of coral reefs, are passive organisms that rely entirely on ocean currents to deliver dissolved substances, such as nutrients and oxygen.

Or so it seemed. Scientists at MIT and the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) in Israel have found that they are far from passive, engineering their environment to sweep water into turbulent patterns that greatly enhance their ability to exchange nutrients and dissolved gases with their environment.


The Brazilian Atlantic forest is home to animals, birds, plants, and tourist trains. Credit: EPA

By Cristina Banks-Leite, Imperial College London

Brazil’s Atlantic forest – Mata Atlântica – is one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots, rivalling even the Amazon. Running on and off for several thousand kilometres along the coast, the forest is home to 10,000 plant species that don’t exist anywhere else, more bird species than the whole of Europe, and more than half of the country’s threatened animal species.


Honey bees play a vital role in pollination but their populations are under threat in many parts of the world. Flickr/Paul Stein, CC BY-SA

By Andrew Beattie