Ecology & Zoology
The sleeping patterns of baby birds are similar to that of baby mammals they even appear to change in the same way as it does in humans.
Studying barn owls in the wild, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Lausanne discovered that this change in sleep is strongly correlated with the expression of a gene involved in producing dark, melanic feather spots, a trait known to covary with behavioral and physiological traits in adult owls. They speculate that sleep-related developmental processes in the brain contribute to the link between melanism and other traits observed in adult barn owls and other animals.
Raising fish in tanks doesn't help them all that much when they are released into the wild - but there may be an easy fix: put in hiding places and obstacles. It makes fish smarter and improves their chances of survival in nature, according to a new paper.
Why does that matter? Because conservation fish hatcheries raise cod, salmon, trout and other types of fish and release them in places where their species may be threatened, or where their populations are declining.
In what the authors are calling perhaps the most comprehensive and definitive effort to date, zoologists say they have explained the processes that drove male mammals to adopt social monogamy as a breeding strategy.
Because male mammals have a much higher potential to produce offspring in a single breeding season than do their female counterparts (who must endure long gestation periods), it would seem that mating with one female per cycle would be limiting. Yet a percentage of mammalian males do this -- and researchers have debated why, seeking to identify selective advantages social monogamy offers, for decades.
2 000 years ago, Roman fishermen knew that some species of fish liked to gather under floating objects.
No one knew why and it didn't matter, that behavioral mechanism was just used to catch more fish in the Mediterranean. Today, artisanal
and industrial tuna fisheries exploit this “aggregating phenomenon” in much the same way. Over the last thirty years, seine fishing in particular has developed rapidly through the use of massive floating objects, natural at first, then more recently fish aggregation devices (FADs) remotely monitored using electronic beacons.
These floating objects help enable 40 % of worldwide tropical tuna catches today.
In J.R.R. Tolkeins's fantasy epic "The Lord of the Rings", a hobbit discovers a giant in the caves under Mt. Doom.
More recently, another famous hobbit helped discover a much smaller kind of spider. And the researchers who get credit for it named Ctenus monaghani after him.
Actor Dominic Monaghan, who played Hobbit Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybock in the recent motion picture trilogy, has a new nature documentary called “Wild Things” and Dr. Peter Jäger, expert consultant to the “Wild Things” team in the forests and caves of Laos, discovered the new, eight-legged critter and named it after the actor in recognition of Monaghan's natural world enthusiasm, which even extends to inconspicuous and unpopular animals such as spiders.
When we want to blow our minds with the sheer vastness of nature, we often turn to astronomy. In fact, we use the word astronomical to mean really a whole lot. But today, I'd like to make a case for biology.
Insect limbs can move without muscles – and a new study helps to explain how insects control their movements using a close interplay of neuronal control and 'clever biomechanical tricks', which may provide engineers with new ways to improve the control of robotic and prosthetic limbs.
Their work helps to explain how insects control their movements using a close interplay of neuronal control and 'clever biomechanical tricks,' says lead researcher Dr Tom Matheson, a Reader in Neurobiology at the University of Leicester.
The ancient Romans were the first to officially discovered that rotating crops improves plant nutrition and inhibits the spread of disease.
While it's common wisdom today, science is often about confirming why nature works the way it does. A new paper details profound effect crop rotation has on enriching soil with bacteria, fungi and protozoa.
Soil was collected from a field near Norwich and planted with wheat, oats and peas. After growing wheat, it remained largely unchanged and the microbes in it were mostly bacteria. However, growing oat and pea in the same sample caused a huge shift towards protozoa and nematode worms. Soil grown with peas was highly enriched for fungi.
Fish is good for you so health advocates would prefer that people eat more of it. Environmentalists don't want fish to be depleted while natural food advocates don't want food that isn't free-range.
It's a tough culture for fisheries but biologists see a silver lining: Evolutionary changes induced by fisheries may benefit the fishers - and that means everyone else too. They just have to be well-managed. If they are well-managed, everyone wins. If not, there are economic losses as stocks decline from overfishing and further suffer from evolution.
Were dinosaurs warm-blooded like birds and mammals and not cold-blooded like reptiles as commonly believed?
Professor Roger Seymour of the University of Adelaide argues that cold-blooded dinosaurs would not have had the required muscular power to prey on other animals and dominate over mammals as they did throughout the Mesozoic period.