Ecology & Zoology

Rose gardeners have a lot to say about aphids. Some may advise insecticides as a way to manage an infestation, but others will swear by live ladybugs (natural predators of aphids). The latter is more environmental friendly, and once the ladybugs run out of food to eat, they move on.

While this strategy may work in someone's backyard, it's not an option on a large farm. In an October 4 Trends in Plant Science Opinion paper, agricultural researchers in Sweden and Mexico argue that one way around the scalability problem is to bring back the odors and nectars found in wild plants that attract pest-eating predators. This could be done either through breeding programs or by using artificial devices.

Climate-related changes in flower diversity have resulted in a decrease in the length of alpine bumble bees' tongues, a new paper in Science says, leaving these insects poorly suited to feed from and pollinate the deep flowers they were adapted to previously.

The results highlight how certain mutually beneficial ecological partnerships can be lost due to shifts in climate. Many co-evolved species have precisely matched traits; for example, long-tongued bumble bees are well adapted for obtaining nectar from deep flowers with long corolla tubes. Recent studies suggest long-tongued bumble bees are declining in number.

A new study has found that the Africanized honey bee, an aggressive hybrid of the European honey bee, is continuing to expand its range northward since its introduction into Southern California in 1994. 

The paper in PLOS ONE showed that more than 60 percent of the foraging honey bees in San Diego County are Africanized and that Africanized bees can now be found as far north as California's delta region. 

"Our study shows that the large majority of bees one encounters in San Diego County are Africanized and that most of the bees you encounter are from feral colonies, not managed hives," said Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at U.C. San Diego, who headed the study. 

Do monarch butterflies need mandatory labeling? New research proves that the favorite butterfly of anti-science activists is actually a GMO.

Irony or paradox? Maybe both.

In one of the more memorable original Star Trek episodes, Captain Kirk uses a paradox to thwart an android’s attempt to capture the Enterprise. (1) Kirk tells Norman, the malicious robot, that everything Harry says is a lie. Harry then says, “Norman, I am lying.” Norman is unable to process the contradictory statements, causing his circuits to disintegrate:

As climate change accelerates ice melt in the Arctic, polar bears may find caribou and snow geese replacing seals as an important food source, shows a recent study.

The research, by Linda Gormezano and Robert Rockwell at the American Museum of Natural History, is based on new computations incorporating caloric energy from terrestrial food sources and indicates that the bears' extended stays on land may not be as grim as previously suggested.

Examination of fossil fragments from Panama has led Smithsonian scientists and colleagues to the discovery of a new genus and species of river dolphin that has been long extinct. The team named it Isthminia panamensis. The specimen not only revealed a new species to science, but also shed new light onto the evolution of today's freshwater river dolphin species.

In the attempt to choose a mate, it's no surprise that females will select the more "attractive" of two males, but now a new study reveals that female túngara frogs are susceptible to the "decoy" effect, where the introduction of a third, inferior mate results in the female choosing the less attractive of the first two options.

The results of this study counter the rational choice models that are currently used in sexual selection theory, suggesting they may prove inadequate to explain decisions in socially complex and dynamic mating arenas.

To detect the occurrence of the decoy effect in frogs' mating choices, Amanda Lea and Mike Ryan conducted experiments using 80 female túngaras, which are known to be attracted to male calls of low frequency and long duration.

In a dramatic 2013 cover story, Time warned of “A World Without Bees,” subtitled “The price we’ll pay if we don’t figure out what’s killing the honeybee.” Its author argued that the class of agricultural pesticides know as neonicotinoids was killing the honeybee and that the planet would starve unless we banned these chemicals immediately. He said this because “1 in every 3 mouthfuls you’ll eat today,” depends on bee pollination. In short: no bees, no food.

If an unidentified flying object suddenly appeared in the sky, it's likely your heart would beat faster.

Now, researchers have found that the same is true for bears.

The UFOs in this case are actually unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have become increasingly valuable to wildlife researchers, allowing them to observe animals, including endangered species, in their natural settings from long distances and over difficult terrain. It had appeared as though the animals were taking these encounters in stride. For instance, American black bears rarely seem to startle or run away when a UAV comes near. But the new study reveals that despite the bears' calm demeanor when in the presence of UAVs, their heart rates soar, a sign of acute stress.

For more than a century, researchers have tried to pin down exactly why so many animal species play in their infancy. Now a new study in wild macaque monkeys has found that infants who play more actually boost key motor skills. However, these skills are acquired at a cost. The researchers also discovered that active infants grow more slowly.

So what are the evolutionary reasons behind this trade-off? And should human parents who want tall children sit them in front of the TV rather than letting them play in the garden?