Ecology & Zoology


Credit: Ed Bierman, CC BY

By Clive Trueman, University of Southampton

Fish are acutely aware of sea temperature; it’s one of the key reasons particular species of fish live where they do.

As the oceans warm however, many tropical species are moving towards cooler climes. So might the traditional cod and chips one day be replaced by Nemo and chips?

What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin, one of mankind's greatest musical inventions? More than you think.

Dan Chitwood, Ph.D., assistant member, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri
spends most of his time exploring genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying diversity in plant morphology - how leaf shapes are formed and what that means for a plant to grow and thrive. He also studies how leaf shapes change as plant species evolve to adapt in different environments. Research into why a desert-adapted tomato species can survive with little water, for example, sheds light on how leaf architecture affects the efficiency of plant water use. 


In last month’s review of Preparing the Ghost, I mentioned that you can actually learn facts from some fiction. Below is one such novel, crammed with science. As author Ryan Lockwood wrote in an e-mail, “Hopefully, most of the biology described in the book is in-line with real-world scientific data. I want to educate readers to some extent and encourage them to learn more after they finish the book.”


You're not getting any pudding. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

By Robert Young, University of Salford


I run 50 kilometers per week on my treadmill and eat a calorie-restricted diet; this is something our ancestors didn’t have to do. But then they didn’t sit at a desk all day and certainly did not have access to such energy rich food.

Unfortunately our animals have joined us on the couch. Take a walk down the pet food aisle in the supermarket and you may be surprised to see rows of diet cat and dog food.

Researchers recently used audio and video recording tools to record larval orientation behavior in the pelagic environment. 

In their field experiment, the scientists put the recording devices i a drifting in situ chamber called DISC  near Fowey Rocks lighthouse in the northern Florida Keys. In total 58 deployments were conducted, 27 during the day and 31 at night. The team also recorded sounds in a laboratory setting to confirm that the sounds observed in the field were from gray snapper larvae. The researchers also referred to the public sound archive at the Macaulay Library to compare the larval sounds to those produced by adult L. griseus.



Going, going, gone: wildlife like the loris are disappearing. Credit: N. A. Naseer, CC BY-NC-ND

By Paul Jepson, University of Oxford

Some sharks are more 'gregarious' than others and have strong social connections while others are solitary and prefer to remain inconspicuous. That's not an exception, according to a new study, these notorious predators have personality traits.

Personalities obviously exist in many animals but they are usually defined by individual characteristics such as how exploratory, bold or aggressive an individual animal is. The paper in
the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology involved testing for social personality by recording the social interactions of groups of juvenile small spotted catsharks in captivity under three different habitat types.  


Certain bats may be approaching wind turbines after mistaking them for trees, according to a study, and that could be leading to disaster.

Propped up by government mandates and subsidies, both solar and wind energy have become more common and thus both have come under criticism. Solar panels are toxic for the environment and their efficiency drops quickly in real-world conditions while wind has been implicated in sleep issues in humans and environmental peril. 

A bright orange poison dart frog with a unique call was discovered in Donoso, Panama, and described by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí in Panama, and the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.

Andinobates geminisae is named for Geminis Vargas, "the beloved wife of [coauthor] Marcos Ponce, for her unconditional support of his studies of Panamanian herpetology." 


Ryan Rykaczewski, an oceanographer and assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, is part of a team that are looking deep into the ocean's past, and they have shown that natural processes can cause dramatic year-to-year drops in fish populations and growth rates.

They also raise questions about whether human activities might be making those declines more frequent.


Upwelling means phytoplankton, the perfect 'sea food'



The focus of the research is the California current, which stretches from Washington state to the Baja peninsula and is one of a handful of coastal waters on Earth from which an inordinately large portion of the world's fish harvest originates.