Ecology & Zoology

Cichlid fish in Lake Malawi know how to court and their courtship evolves - fast. 

In the shallows where the light is good, males build sand castles to attract females, while deep-dwelling species dig less elaborate pits and compensate with longer swimming displays, according to a new study. 
A tiny parasite named Pleistophora mulleri not only significantly increases cannibalism among the indigenous shrimp Gammarus duebeni celticus but made infected shrimp more voracious, taking much less time to consume their victims. 

Cannibalism is fairly common in nature but the belief was always that it is practical - meat is meat. Consumption of juveniles by adults is a normal feature of the shrimp's feeding patterns, but this is the first paper to show parasites cause it and even alter the feeding patterns -  shrimp infected with the parasite ate twice as much of their own kind as uninfected animals. They attacked juvenile shrimp more often and consumed them more quickly than did uninfected shrimp.
 Chitin is a molecule that forms hard structures like fungal cell walls and the exoskeletons of invertebrates such as insects and crustaceans. It forms a strong and pliable material that is made even stronger when complexed with other materials (such as proteins and minerals) to form the protective outer shells of insects and crustaceans.  
A generation ago, environmental activists declared war on yet another field of science - astronomy. A new telescope was going to disrupt a squirrel, they alleged, and so astronomy abandoned places in the U.S. like Arizona and began to move to Chile.

Environmentalists declared a victory against science but they don't understand systems, including ecological ones. Astronomy is a clean industry with people from all over the world and to keep it going means limiting light pollution - and another study has shown that light pollution is an unknown force. 
It is no surprise that female mice prefer healthy males, most humans are the same way, but a new study tested the belief that attractive males have better mating success than other males. 

Sarah Zala and Dustin Penn of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the Vetmeduni Vienna investigated whether females would also choose to mate with healthy over infected male if given a choice. In the laboratory and in large enclosures, the females were allowed to freely choose between two males, one healthy and another challenged with a mild infection, which they previously found to alter male odor. 

The Antarctic Ocean hosts rich and diverse fauna despite inhospitable temperatures close to freezing. While it can be hard to deliver oxygen to tissues in the cold due to lower oxygen diffusion and increased blood viscosity, ice-cold waters already contain large amounts of dissolved oxygen. 

That is why an Antarctic octopus that lives in ice-cold water has evolved specialized blood pigments (e.g. hemoglobin), and why that  blue-blooded benefit could help to make it more resilient to climate change than Antarctic fish and other species of octopus. Octopods have three hearts and contractile veins that pump 'hemolymph', which is highly enriched with the blue oxygen transport protein hemocyanin (analogous to hemoglobin in vertebrates).
mouse-tailed bat Rhinopoma microphyllum and R. Cystops hibernate at warm temperaturesMany mammals, and some birds, escape the winter by hibernating for three to nine months. This period of dormancy permits species which would otherwise perish from the cold and scarce food to survive to see another spring.

The Middle East, with temperate winters, was until recently considered an unlikely host for hibernating mammals.

Attempts to put a dollar value on the natural world – so-called “natural capital” or “ecosystem services” – have produced some frankly staggering numbers. A seminal 1997 paper valued the world’s ecosystem services at US$33 trillion (A$42 trillion) a year. This estimate was controversial, given that it dwarfed the entire global market economy, which at the time stood at roughly US$18 trillion a year.


When a young, wingless praying mantis jumps,  from take-off to landing is a mere tenth of second--literally faster than the blink of a human eye. During a jump, the insect's body rotates in mid-air at a rate of about 2.5 times per second.

And yet, the jumps are precise.

When mantises jump, they land on target every time. 

"This is akin to asking an ice skater who is rotating at the same speed as these mantises to stop suddenly and accurately to face a specific direction," says Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge.


Male enigma moth, a new species discovered on Kangaroo Island. George Gibbs, Author provided

The discovery of a new family of moth is one of the most exciting finds in entomology in the past 40 years.

It was found not in some remote and unexplored region of Australia, but right in our backyard on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The island that is only 100 kilometers from Adelaide and 13  kilometers from the mainland, that has been settled since 1836 and is one of the loveliest destinations for a holiday.