Ecology & Zoology

Slippery as an eel may be a popular phrase but it turns out they are a lot easier to catch when marine vessels make noise nearby.

In a Global Change Biology paper, researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Bristol found that fish exposed to playback of ship noise lose crucial responses to predator threats - European eels (anguilla anguilla)were 50% less likely to respond to an ambush from a predator, while those that did had 25% slower reaction times.

Those that were pursued by a predator were caught more than twice as quickly when exposed to the noise.  

Juvenile loggerhead turtles don't just passively drift through life, they swim into oncoming ocean currents, according to a new study.

Lanternsharks produce and perceive bioluminescent light in order to communicate, find prey, and camouflage themselves against predators in the mesopelagic twilight zone.

The mesopelagic twilight zone is 200-1000 meters deep in the sea - a vast, dim habitat, where, with increasing depth, sunlight is progressively replaced by point-like bioluminescent emissions. To better understand strategies used by bioluminescent predators inhabiting this region that help optimize photon capture, the authors of a new study analyzed the eye shape, structure, and retinal cell mapping in the visual systems of five deep-sea bioluminescent sharks, including four Lanternsharks (Etmopteridae) and one kitefin shark (Dalatiidae).

It's no surprise that between 1880 and 1920, as the population increased and America became more settled, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas had increased deforestation and that decreased the habitat for black bears and other forest species.

To remedy that and repopulate that mountainous region known as the Central Interior Highlands (CIH), more than 250 bears from Minnesota and Manitoba were relocated to Arkansas in the 1950s and 1960s. Researchers have analyzed genetic diversity in black bears in the 
the Central Interior Highlands
and determined that conservation management has worked, but bears are not out of the woods yet.

A new paper has found that two broad-spectrum systemic insecticides, fipornil and imidacloprid, may be impacting honeybees.

Fipronil, part of the phenylpyrazole chemical family, is a highly effective insecticide which can be applied at very low doses for everything from crop to veterinary pests. Imidacloprid is in the class of chemicals called neonicotinoids - it mimics nicotine, which can be toxic to sucking insects like fleas and termites but has no effect on mammals.

More than 10,000 reptile species have been recorded into the Reptile Database, a web-based catalog of all living reptile species and classification, making the reptile species among the most diverse vertebrate groups in the world, alongside bird and fish species, and likely the largest known.

Experts projected that 2014 would mark the year that reptiles would become the most diverse vertebrate group in the world. Reptiles include snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, tuataras and amphisbaenians.

Squids are weird, and then some are weirder. This Bobtail squid was imaged by the Deep Discover ROV in Atlantis Canyon, is less than one foot in length.
This Bobtail squid was imaged by the Deep Discover ROV in Atlantis Canyon, is less than one foot in length.This bobtail squid is very surprised at the absence of squid gynaecologists! Image credit: NOAA OKEANOS Explorer Program

Hibiscus flowers are an iconic symbol of tropical resorts worldwide but some are rather rare. Hawaii's State Flower, Hibiscus brackenridgei, is an endangered species.

Everyone knows of the Hawaiian hibiscus but few are aware of an equally beautiful and intriguing related group of plants known as Hibiscadelphus- literally "brother of Hibiscus".

Brother of Hibiscus is highly endangered. Until recently only one of the seven previously known species remained in its natural habitat, the other having gone extinct. These trees are only known, or were known, from five of the eight main Hawaiian Islands. Two are still alive in cultivation, saved in part because of their beautiful showy blossoms. Several were only known from a single wild tree.

Bumblebees can glean differences in pollen quality based on floral features like petal color and that informs their decision on where to land.

Bees do not sample pollen so it has been unclear how they determined quality. The new study in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that they are able to form associative relationships between appearance and pollen quality. Bumblebees can individually assess pollen samples and discriminate between them during collection, quickly forming preferences for a particular type of pollen.

Pollen foraging behavior involves learning and individual decision-making, which may allow bees to quickly learn which flowers provide the most nutritious pollen rewards for rearing their young, the authors write. 

Before the European colonial era, the people who lived on the land now called California used fire to control growth and make sure they had food, fuel, tools, and objects for ritual.