Ecology & Zoology

Like seeds, pollen loses most of its water during maturation, entering a state of suspended animation. This allows it to survive its journey from male to female organs of a flower, where it is rehydrated by sugary fluids secreted by the female organ, and springs into life again.

But rehydrating is a dangerous process, one that can kill the pollen grain before it can fertilize the egg if not properly controlled.

New research from the lab of Elizabeth Haswell, PhD, associate professor of biology in Arts&Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, shows how pollen survives the reanimation process. A specialized protein with ancient origins helps the hydrating pollen grain relieve excessive pressure and survive the stressful transition.

Chemical signaling among social insects, such as bees, ants and wasps, is more complex than previously thought, according to researchers whose results refute the idea that a single group of chemicals controls reproduction across numerous species.

Many humans like to start the day with a jolt of caffeine and it turns out bees do also.

They may even select caffeinated nectar over an uncaffeinated but otherwise equal alternative. As a result, researchers say, plants may be lacing their nectar with caffeine as a way to pass off cheaper goods.

"We describe a novel way in which some plants, through the action of a secondary compound like caffeine that is present in nectar, may be tricking the honey bee by securing loyal and faithful foraging and recruitment behaviors, perhaps without providing the best quality forage," says Margaret Couvillon of the University of Sussex.

The Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus euryale) is a bat species that, which the name implies, occurs in the Mediterranean region and Balkan peninsula. Unfortunately, the populations of these bats are declining. Conservation efforts have so far focused on protecting the area where the bats occur/hunt. However, Aitor and his colleges say that that will not be enough.

Researchers have been able to watch the interior cells of a plant synthesize cellulose for the first time by tricking the cells into growing on the plant's surface.

"The bulk of the world's cellulose is produced within the thickened secondary cell walls of tissues hidden inside the plant body," says University of British Columbia Botany PhD candidate Yoichiro Watanabe, lead author of the paper published this week in Science.

"So we've never been able to image the cells in high resolution as they produce this all-important biological material inside living plants."

Since publishing our study on “A scientific basis for regulation deep-sea fishing by depth“ we’ve been subjected to criticism online and in print from fisheries organizations and most recently on this website in an article by Magnus Johnson.

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: