Ecology & Zoology

Looking after yourself, and trying not to infect others, is a good strategy to prevent disease from spreading - not only if you are a considerate co-worker, but also if you are an ant, meerkat or other social animal, as revealed by an epidemiological model developed by the groups of Professor Fabian Theis from the Helmholtz Center Munich and Professor Sylvia Cremer from the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria.

In a Theme Issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on "The Society-Health-Fitness Nexus" published on 13 April 2015, they combine observations of hygienic interaction networks within ant colonies with epidemiological modeling to conclude that this strategy is best to prevent disease spread in social animal groups.


 By identifying and comparing the sequences of more than 400 receptors in the genomes of two fruit flies and three mosquito species, entomologists have unlocked one of the hormonal mechanisms that allow mosquitoes to produce eggs. They identified a single gene for a receptor with an unknown function within the species distribution.  



A common, humble field bug is spreading a disease that has already infected millions of olive trees in Italy.

Olive and citrus fruit crops throughout the Mediterranean are threatened, yet there has been a collective failure to recognize the danger and take decisive action.

For more than 50 years, people said that the "Pinocchio Lizard" (horned anole lizard), called such for its long, protruding nose, was extinct, but that was just a fib by nature. 

In 2005, it was found living at the tops of tall trees in the cloud forests of Ecuador. Like many species that are considered rare or endangered, it is instead the case that there are not many of them and never have been, and they are limited to a small area.

Why the nose? Only the males have long noses, and they appear to be used in social interactions, both among males and between males and females. Previous investigators had wondered if the nasal appendage served as a weapon of some sort in male-male interactions.


After decades in ornithological obscurity, one of the world's least-known birds is finally coming to light thanks to the persistence of a small group of researchers; a year-long study of the Black Tinamou (Tinamus osgoodi hershkovitzi) has captured some of the first video and sound recordings of this elusive species.

The Black Tinamou is a chicken-sized bird found in the foothills of the eastern Andes, where it lives in tall, dense primary forest. It is extremely difficult to observe due to its secretive habitats and cryptic coloration.

For their study, the researchers focused on the southern Colombia subspecies, doing daily censuses in Alto Fragua Indi Wasi National Park, recording vocalizations, and setting up camera traps to capture images and video.


An Australian Government report into the state of the Great Barrier Reef found that its condition in 2014 was "poor and expected to further deteriorate in the future". In the past 40 years, the Reef has lost more than half of its coral cover and there is growing concern about the future impacts of ocean acidification and climate change.

But science could restore the Great Barrier Reef to its former glory through better policies that focus on evidence-based policies, according to paper in Nature Climate Change. But all the stressors on the Reef need to be reduced for it to recover, so nothing is off the hook.


Thousands of years ago, Aristotle knew that some mushrooms glowed, so it is no surprise the great thinker wondered why.

Science may finally have an answer for his question. 

A new study posits that the light emitted from those fungi attracts the attention of insects, including beetles, flies, wasps, and ants. Those insect visitors are apparently good for the fungi because they spread the fungal spores around. The new study also shows that the mushrooms' bioluminescence is under the control of the circadian clock. In fact, it was that discovery that led the researchers to suspect that the mushrooms' light must serve some useful purpose.

Warming winters may be linked to mountain pine beetle outbreaks in the coldest areas of the western United States but the causes are multi-faceted, according to a new U.S. Forest Service study.


When it comes to survival of the fittest, it's all about your mother, according to a study that analyzed 24 years' worth of data from a population of North American red squirrels in Canada's Yukon and measured maternal genetic effects in squirrel offspring.  

Conclusion: Adaptive success in squirrels is often hidden in the genes of their mother. Biologists have debated "nature vs. nurture" for decades. To what extent are we born a blank slate and how much of our destiny in life is written out for us in terms of our genetics?

Nearly half of the 36 species of felids that live in the wild in the world are at threat, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature advocacy group, and the main threat they all share in common is the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. That also limits the establishment of effective conservation strategies, according to a review of 162 articles related to Lynx pardinus, the Iberian lynx.