Ecology & Zoology


When is a cat not a cat? Biodiversity Heritage Library (adapted), CC BY

By Ben Holt, Imperial College London and Knud Andreas Jønsson, Imperial College London

When it comes to human life, we never think about culling the herd, instead the goal is to keep as many people alive and healthy as possible.

But in nature, that isn't the best approach. Some plant diseases attack trees and crops and can hurt lumber and food production, but pathogens that kill tree seedlings can actually make forests more diverse.


In World War II, did people with bird feeders have substantially different chirping friends than we see today?

Probably not, but a group of researchers warns than 2075 might look a lot less like then, or even 1975, or today. The distribution of birds in the United States could change a lot.

A new U.S. Geological Survey study in PLOS ONE predicts where 50 bird species will breed, feed and live in the conterminous U.S. by 2075. While some types of birds, like the Baird's sparrow, could lose a significant amount of their current U.S. range, other ranges could nearly double.    

A reference genome for coffee trees has been sequenced for the first time. It improves understanding of the organization of the genome, which is academic, but it also offers new possibilities for selection or improvement of coffee tree varieties. 

The researchers chose Robusta coffee because of its average sized genome (710 million pairs of DNA bases) and its diploid nature contrary to Coffea arabica, which is tetraploid. The genetic map of the coffee tree studied was produced in the 1980s and also had the advantage of being a homozygous plant (two identical sets of eleven chromosomes), which is easier to analyze than natural heterozygotes.

Natural pollen makes honey bees significantly more resistant to pesticides than an artificial diet and pesticide exposure causes changes in gene expression related to diet and nutrition, according to a new study.


More than 60 years after the last confirmed sighting, a strange deer with vampire-like fangs is roaming the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan, according to a research team which confirmed the species presence during recent surveys.


If you see a bat zooming toward you this evening, cover your hair. But if you do get bit, you will probably not the flu.

Halloween bats can be a little scary knowing they are not going to spread most viruses. A research project finds that influenza viruses carried by bats pose a low risk to humans.

Courtesy of Guiomar Liste

By: Nala Rogers, Inside Science

(Inside Science) -- When ducklings head out to bathe in a pool, they usually follow the same individual, new research has found. But do they visit the pool that’s best for everyone, or just the one their chief prefers? This puzzle has made it hard for farmers to know how to provide for all their ducks equally, and for biologists to know what social animals really want.  

Talk to long-time anglers with a favorite spot and they will often tell stories of one fish they could never get. In mythical overtones, they will speak of its ability to avoid capture, attributing an almost supernatural intelligence (for a fish). Such stories were once so common that 'fish story' became its own brand of tall tale.

A new study mapped individual heritable traits of fish to environmental conditions and concluded that some fish really are going to be harder to catch.

The work by the University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute
in the Paltamo Unit of the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute


Ferns are an old plant species, dinosaurs munched on them over 200 million years ago. If we want to know how to survive against nature's onslaught over the long haul, ferns are as good a place as any to start.

Even recent ones can show us how to evolve and outlast. A group of ferns evolved much more recently, and they did it while colonizing the extreme environment of the high Andes. Their completely new morphology (form and structure) arose and diversified within the last 2 million years. How this group of ferns grew in a unique ecosystem of the Andean mountains was the subject of a new study by Dr. Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo and Dr. Gavin Thomas.