Ecology & Zoology

During their life, plants constantly renew themselves. They sprout new leaves in the spring and shed them in the fall. No longer needed, damaged or dead organs such as blossoms and leaves are also cast off by a process known as abscission. By doing so, plants conserve energy and prepare for the next step in their life cycle.

But how does a plant know when it is the right time to get rid of unnecessary organs? It is regulated by receptor proteins located at the surface of specific cells that form a layer around the future break point. When it is time to shed an organ, a small hormone binds to this membrane receptor and, together with a helper protein, the abscission process is initiated. Their findings are now published in the journal eLife.

Illuminating fishing nets is a cost-effective means of dramatically reducing the number of sea turtles getting caught and dying unnecessarily, conservation biologists at the University of Exeter have found.

Dr Jeffrey Mangel, a Darwin Initiative research fellow based in Peru, and Professor Brendan Godley, from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University's Penryn Campus, were part of a team of researchers who found that attaching green battery powered light-emitting diodes (LED) to gillnets used by a small-scale fishery reduced the number of green turtle deaths by 64 per cent, without reducing the intended catch of fish.

Thanks to government mandates and ongoing subsidies, wind energy has become more popular, and one impact of large-scale wind energy development has been widespread mortality of bats. A new study tracks down the origin of bats killed by wind turbines in the Appalachian region in hopes of better understanding the risks to affected populations.

As the deadly bat disease called white-nose syndrome continues to spread across North America, scientists are studying bats in China to understand how they are able to survive infections with the same fungus that has wiped out millions of North American bats.

Cat owners tare familiar with their pets’ individual personalities, habits and preferences, and they can tell when the behavior is different than normal, but understanding what these changes mean can be much more difficult.

Horses have been shown to be able to distinguish between angry and happy human facial expressions, according to psychologists who studied how 28 horses reacted to seeing photographs of positive versus negative human facial expressions.

The belief by Western elites that ancient people lived in some sort of harmony with the land, a belief popular for the last century, has been punctured again.

DNA profiling reveals grey squirrels are not as good invaders as we think, and that humans played a much larger role in spreading them through the UK.

Grey squirrels were imported to the UK from the 1890s onwards, and the traditional view is that they spread rapidly across the UK due to their ability cope with new landscapes. Different populations of grey squirrels were thought to have interbred into a 'supersquirrel' that was better able to adapt and spread.

The magnetic compass that birds use for orientation is affected by polarized light. This previously unknown phenomenon was discovered by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

The discovery that the magnetic compass is affected by the polarization direction of light was made when trained zebra finches were trying to find food inside a maze. The birds were only able to use their magnetic compass when the direction of the polarized light was parallel to the magnetic field, not when perpendicular to the magnetic field.

One of the most triumphant moments in the book and recent movie "The Martian" comes when lead character Mark Watney successfully grows a potato crop on Mars.

It's more than food for survival, it's a mental and engineering breakthrough. In space, there is no scent of baking bread, no wind on your face, no sound of raindrops hitting the roof, no favorite kitten to curl up in your lap. Over time, being deprived of these common earthbound sense stimulations may take a toll, according to NASA's Behavioral Health and Performance team. They say gardening provides recreation and relaxation and can provide a welcome break.