Ecology & Zoology

Birds use sophisticated changes to the structure of their feathers, not dyes and pigments, to create multi-colored plumage, and that is why they never go gray. 

Using X-ray scattering at the ESRF facility in France to examine the blue and white feathers of the Blue Jay, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that birds demonstrate a surprising level of control and sophistication in producing colors -  it is able to change the color of its feathers along the equivalent of a single human hair using a tunable nanostructure.

One of the biggest controversies in the western U.S. in the last two decades has been keeping gray wolves listed as endangered. Wolves are predators and with no evidence-based policies regarding herd management, attacks on livestock and threats to humans were greater than ever. That changed recently because the US Fish and Wildlife Service implemented herd management to try and bring the population back down. 

Psychologists say they have evidence of tool use by greater vasa parrots (Coracopsis vasa). They determined this by studying ten captive parrots and seeing that the birds adopt a novel tool-using technique to acquire calcium from seashells. They also noted active sharing of tools among themselves. 

A new study challenges the popular idea that sexual cannibalism occurs because a female is unable to alter or 'tone down' her aggressive mindset after foraging and hunting for prey. Instead, females are sexually cannibalistic because they are testing the males, rather than just being inherently aggressive, says University of Melbourne scientist Dr. Mark Elgar.

In the first trial, 11 of 16 female raft spiders (Dolomedes fimbriatus) that copulated then attacked the males during or immediately after copulation. But only four attacks were fatal.

The key to helping animals evolve quickly in response to climate change could actually be their predators, according to a new study which says that species interactions, meaning the way species interact with each other in an ecosystem, like in a predator-prey relationship, is important to understanding how animals will respond to climate change.  

"Not only can predators keep prey populations in check but in some cases they can help speed up the evolutionary response to climate change," said Michelle Tseng, a research associate in UBC's Department of Zoology and lead author of the study. "We now understand that species interactions and evolution can play a significant role in preventing animals from going extinct in a rapidly changing climate."

People often think hippos are herbivores with big smiling faces. Every now and then, reports of a hippo of hunting down prey, eating a carcass, or stealing prey from a crocodile are heard, but they're typically considered 'aberrant' or 'unusual' behavior. 

A native Australian grass that plays dead during droughts and culls its own cells to survive could provide genetic keys to help food crops survive worldwide.

Like other so-called 'resurrection plants', Tripogon loliiformis has the ability to withstand desiccation (being dried out) for prolonged periods and can be revived by water but scientists have never known how these plants actually do it, or if the existing plant cells really do come alive again from a dormant state, or if its new growth is separate from the old cells. Professor Sagadevan Mundree of Queensland University have now proved sugar manipulation and the controlled sacrifice of cells are keys to the native grass's survival.

The armored shells of some marine mollusks have evolved to satisfy two conflicting design requirements, protection and sight, a new study shows.

In the animal world, if several males mate with the same female, their sperm compete to fertilize her limited supply of eggs. And longer sperm seem to have a competitive advantage, but even when it comes to sperm the size of the animals matter. The larger the animal, the more im-portant the number of sperm is relative to sperm length. That's why elephants have smaller sperm than mice.  

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the AquAdvantage salmon, a genetically modified Atlantic salmon that expresses a gene from a Chinook salmon to grow faster, after reviewing it since 1996.