Ecology & Zoology

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?

Will the planet starve if bees disappear? Aren’t bees responsible for a significant chunk of the world’s food supply and nutrition, from one third to as much as 90 percent, depending on what advocacy group is making the claim? You hear such assertions invoked by advocacy groups, reported as truth by journalists and cited by politicians as accepted wisdom whenever the subject of pollinators comes up.

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice -- they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee babies protection against disease.


People associate wasps with memories of picnic invasions, BBQs under siege, and painful stings. There is a lot more to these much-maligned insects though, and with more than 100,000 different species, their life histories range from the quietly unobtrusive to the bizarre and gruesome. A new study in the Journal of Experimental Biology documents one such disturbing example of wasp larvae that takes control of their unfortunate spider hosts.

The odds of being attacked and castrated by a variety of parasitic flatworms increases for marine horn snails the farther they are found from the tropics. A Smithsonian-led research team discovered this exception to an otherwise globally observed pattern--usually biodiversity is greatest in the tropics and decreases toward the poles.

The study makes a case for using host-parasite relationships as a tool to understand why there are typically more species--and more interactions between species--in the tropics than anywhere else in the world.


We know that Greenpeace and other activist groups really,really care about bees. Really.

A new small goby fish differs from its relatives not only in its size and colors, but also in the depth of its habitat (70-80 m) in the southern Caribbean. The scientists gave it the name Coryphopterus curasub in recognition of the Curasub submersible that was used in their deep-reef exploration.

Marine biodiversity inhabiting shallow Caribbean coral reefs has been studied for more than 150 years, but much less is known about what lives at depths just below those accessible with conventional SCUBA gear.

Thanks to the availability of a privately owned, manned submersible on the island of Curacao, the Curasub, scientists are now able to intensively study depths to 300 m (1,000 ft).


From the frozen forests of Russia to the scorching sands of the Kalahari Desert, leopards are the most widely distributed large cat on earth. Their iconic spotted coat has been admired and coveted by humans for millennia.

But in one part in their vast range - the Malay Peninsula - leopards are almost entirely black in color.

Yes it turns out those have spots also. By modifying the infrared flash on automatic camera traps and forcing them into ‘night mode’ a team of wildlife experts has revealed the black leopard’s spots. Using infrared flash, the seemingly ‘black’ leopards suddenly showed complex patterns of spotting.