Ecology & Zoology

Six mating positions (amplexus modes) are known among the almost 7,000 species of frogs and toads found worldwide. However, the Bombay night frog (Nyctibatrachus humayuni), which is endemic to the Western Ghats Biodiversity hotspot of India, mates differently. In a new study, scientists have described a new (seventh) mode of amplexus -- now named as dorsal straddle.

A species of tropical fish has been shown to be able to distinguish between human faces. It is the first time fish have demonstrated this ability.

In the bird world, the color red has special significance. Many species use red signals to attract mates or deter rivals, adding the color to their beaks, feathers, or bare skin. Generally speaking, as far as many birds are concerned, redder is better. Now, two teams of researchers have independently identified an enzyme-encoding gene that allows some bird species to convert yellow pigments from their diets into that remarkable red. Their findings are reported on May 19 in Current Biology.

Mysterious spectacular mounds found in the earth in tropical wetlands in South America are created by earthworms, researchers have found.

The densely packed, regularly spaced mounds cover large areas of the Orinoco Llanos in Columbia and Venezuela. Until now it was not known how they were formed.

A new study shows these mounds, called surales, are largely made up of earthworm casts, heaps of muddy soil ejected by their guts. This is the first research to describe their formation.

The Bee Informed Partnership conducts an annual survey of commercial and backyard beekeepers so that they can try and track health and survival rates of honey bee colonies.  Though honey bees are just one bee species out of about 27,000, estimates of their implied economic value are around $10 billion annually. A  The latest results show that honey bee colonies declined 44 percent during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016.

That sounds alarming, and it is in contrast to studies showing that bee numbers are not in decline, but were instead at a 20-year high last year. (1)

How can the claims be so different? Should we be alarmed or not?

Vultures are often cartoon-ish characters in parched deserts. No one wants them around because in western films it means they are just waiting for you to die.

Cultural jokes aside, vultures in some parts of the world are in danger of disappearing. And according to a new report from University of Utah biologists, such a loss would have serious consequences for ecosystems and human populations alike. 

Researchers at the University of Maryland and the U.S. Agriculture Department recently found that several parasites and the diseases they vector into honey bee colonies are the source of most of the bee health problems and supposed ‘die-offs’ observed in recent years

Galileo is regarded as an important figure today, because he was put under house arrest by his church for ridiculing the Pope, but for much of his career he was derided by other scientists. Both Kepler and mathematics knew Galileo was wrong about the moon, for example, but his flavor of science insisted that the tides only happened once per day if they happened at all, they happened at the same time every day, and that Luna had nothing to do with them.

Madagascan Darwin's bark spider (Caerostris darwini) are a sexually size dimorphic species from Madagascar, with females several times larger and heavier than males.

If you want a weird science project for school, kids, these are the way to go. C. darwini has a rich sexual repertoire that not only involves sexual cannibalism and genital mutilation, but also oral sex. Males of this species routinely salivate onto female genitalia.

Oral sexual contact is rare in the animal kingdom, except in mammals, where fellatio-like behaviors are known in macaques, lemurs, bonobos, hyenas, cheetahs, lions, dolphins and bats. However, cunnilingus-like behaviors, like the one shown in this spider are even rarer.

Researchers wondered whether bed bugs preferred certain colors for their hiding places, so they did some testing in the lab.

The tests consisted of using small tent-like harborages that were made from colored cardstock and placed in Petri dishes. A bed bug was then placed in the middle of the Petri dish and given ten minutes to choose one of the colored harborages. A few variations of the test were also conducted, such as testing bed bugs in different life stages, of different sexes, individual bugs versus groups of bugs, and fed bugs versus hungry bugs.