Ecology & Zoology

Ruminant cows and sheep account for a major proportion of the methane produced around the world - an estimated 20 percent of global methane emissions stem from ruminants.

In the atmosphere, methane is a shorter-term problem than CO2 but has 23X the warming effect  – that's why researchers are looking for ways of reducing methane production. Comparatively little is known about the methane production of other animal species, but one thing seems to be clear: Ruminants produce more of the gas per amount of converted feed than other herbivores.


Guess who’s not being displayed in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's new "Tentacles" exhibit, opening April 12? Who is just too difficult for this award-winning institution to handle?
A new initiative is underway to breathe life back into the 700,000-gallon ocean tank at Biosphere 2. The new ocean at Biosphere 2 will provide a glimpse into the sea that's closest to Southern Arizona – the Gulf of California, which stretches for a thousand miles from the mouth of the Colorado River to Mazatlan on the mainland of Mexico.

The original "ocean" was one of several habitats intended to sustain a crew of scientists living and working inside the Biosphere 2 dome isolated from the outside world. When the "enclosed missions" ended in 1994, the fragile ecology of the ocean habitat collapsed. The corals died and algae and bacterial mats took over, crowding out the reef.  
Enjoy Greek yogurt?

Maybe, if you hate nature.

Because it is now a $2 billion a year industry, activists have turned on it, a fate that the $29 billion organic food industry has so far escaped.

One Green Planet says the greek yogurt manufacturing process is "creating an ecological nightmare beyond all comprehension" which tells you that no one at One Green Planet can do simple math. And they are prone to hyperbole. It is entirely in my ability to comprehend what a cup of yogurt can do.

Wildlife fences are constructed for lots of reasons, including having them killed by cars (and people along with them) to prevent the spread of disease and to protect small small populations of threatened species.

Near more populated areas, the concern is different; predatory animals will wantonly kill livestock and ruin crops, a few threaten human lives.

Separating people and wildlife by fencing is a mutually beneficial way to avoid detrimental effects but a paper in Science, clearly written by people who clearly do not live near bears, wolves or mountain lions, argues it is a last resort.


Six new species of Dracula ants from the Malagasy region have been discovered and they represent a completely new twist in the typically rigid caste system of ants, where anatomy is typically destiny. 

Mystrium species have unique features such as long, spatulate mandibles that snap together (Gronenberg et al. 1998); wingless queens that in some undetermined species are even smaller than workers (Molet et al. 2007); and large, wingless individuals intermediate between workers and queens, which behave like queens (Molet et al. 2012).


The University of the Basque Country Cell Biology in Environmental Toxicology group has conducted research using thick-lipped grey mullet and in six zones and report acquisition of feminine features by male fish in all the estuaries, not only in the characteristics of the gonads of the specimens analyzed but also in various molecular markers. 

According to Miren P. Cajaraville, director of the research group, the results -  Arriluze and Gernika in 2007 and 2008, Santurtzi, Plentzia, Ondarroa, Deba and Pasaia since then  -show that "endocrine disruption is a phenomenon that has spread all over our estuaries, which means that, as has been detected in other countries, we have a problem with pollutants."


The Rhynchohyalus natalensis in a recent paper was caught about 1000 meters under the Tasman Sea and it has two pairs of eyes, allowing it to spot danger from every angle. One pair is upward-facing tubular eyes, to spot danger from above, while another set is on the side of its head, to detect bioluminescence from deep sea creatures.

The second type of eye is typically associated with invertebrates. The authors write that this is only the second instance in a vertebrate, after Dolichopteryx longipes, with both reflective and refractive optics.  

I particularly liked the description of how they modeled the optics and image focusing. The authors have the same question I have; this is cool, so why isn't it more common?

Seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals can be unintended victims – by-catch – of global fishing. Accidental entanglement in fishing gear is the single biggest threat to some species in these groups, according to a new analysis co-authored by Stanford biology Professor Larry Crowder that provides a global map of this by-catch.


An ancient stick insect species,
Cretophasmomima melanogramma from in Inner Mongolia at the Jehol locality, may have mimicked plant leaves for defense as far back as 126 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, according to a new study.