Ecology & Zoology

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, it is said, but most people want to avoid catching flies at all. A study has found that a popular non-nutritive sweetener, erythritol,  the main component of the sweetener Truvia®, is toxic to Drosophila melanogaster flies in a dose-dependent manner and so may be an effective and human-safe insecticide.

A new paper  in Nature Climate Change asserts that global warming is causing the hybridization of trout – interbreeding between native and non-native species – to increase in the interior western United States.

Lighter-colored butterflies and dragonflies do better in warmer areas of Europe, a finding that could have implicated for global warming; darker insects could face a competitive disadvantage, finds a study recently published in Nature Communications.

Light-colored insects dominate the warmer south of Europe and darker insects dominate the cooler north. For dragonflies, the insect assemblage in Europe has on average gotten lighter during the last decades, which the authors attribute to climate change.

Research from North Carolina State University finds that a lack of plant diversity is a key contributor to the widespread defoliation caused by cankerworms in cities, and highlights the role that increasing diversity can play in limiting future damage.

Fall cankerworms (Alsophila pometaria) are caterpillars that are native to the eastern United States and hatch in early spring. The cankerworms defoliate trees and other plants, eating new leaves as they emerge – which is both unsightly and can ultimately kill the plants.

For several decades, there has been speculation about the formation of the enigmatic, vegetation-free circles frequently found in certain African grassland regions.

Now researchers have tested different prevailing hypotheses as to their respective plausibility. For the first time they have carried out a detailed analysis of the spatial distribution of these fairy circles – and discovered a remarkably regular and spatially comprehensive homogenous distribution pattern.

This may best be explained by way of reference to local resource-competition for water among plants and vegetation, the team now reports in the scientific journal Ecography.

When most people think of modern birds they don't often picture dinosaurs - but that is the case. Dinosaurs rule the sky as they once ruled land and there are even modern raptors - eagles.

Carbon monoxide is known as the "silent killer" because it is imperceptible and lethal. Most homes carry detectors.

We think of it as artificial, due to car exhaust and such, but it is produced naturally in humans and animals, and some medical researchers have even evaluated the gas as a treatment for diabetes, heart attacks, sepsis, and other illnesses. Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have studied carbon monoxide's natural characteristics and limitations by studying the gas in one of the world's best divers: the elephant seal.

Seabirds, marine mammals, seabed animals and other fish actually love human fishermen - because they throw back unwanted fish and that means free food with less work.

New rules have been put in place by the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) bans throwing unwanted fish caught at sea back into the sea –  it forces vessels to haul fish to land anyway, which is a waste of time and money. The new CFP took effect on 1 January 2014 and will phase out the discarding of fish entirely by 2019. 

If you ask rural people in the American east which is more damaging to the ecology, coyotes or deer, it may be a toss-up. But that doesn't mean it is a good idea for one to just take the other out.

In most states, deer population management also brings revenue benefits - hunting licenses and meat - but coyotes aren't hunted. They haven't been arrived that long. Coyotes -- Canis latrans -- have long inhabited the American West but are a relatively recent arrival to eastern North America, appearing first in the region in noticeable numbers in the 1970s. They have already become a significant source of deer mortality and most often prey on whitetail fawns in the earliest months of their lives.

A spider in the Moroccan Sahara rolls like a tumbleweed and can do powerful, acrobatic flips through the air.

Cebrennus rechenbergi runs for a short time, then stretches out its front legs, spinning into the air and returning to touch the ground with its hind legs.  The move doubles the spider’s speed, to two meters per second. But since it uses so much energy, the maneuver is a last resort, called on only to escape predators. 

“I can’t see any other reason,”  said Peter Jäger, a taxonomist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, who identified the spider. “It is a costly move. If it performs this five to 10 times within one day, then it dies.”