Ecology & Zoology

Native small mammals on forest islands created by a large hydroelectric reservoir in Thailand faced extinction and a new paper says species living in rainforest fragments could be far more likely to disappear than was previously thought.

The authors draw parallels between logging and the islands created by hydroelectric power and say they were motivated by a desire to understand how long species can live in forest fragments. If they persist for many decades, this gives conservationists a window of time to create wildlife corridors or restore surrounding forests to reduce the harmful effects of forest isolation. 

A review panel has concluded that the mass stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in the Loza Lagoon system in northwest Madagascar in 2008 was primarily triggered by acoustic stimuli - a multi-beam echosounder system operated by a survey vessel contracted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production (Northern Madagascar) Limited.

In response to the event and with assistance from The International Fund for Animal Welfare and Wildlife Conservation Society led an international stranding team to help return live whales from the lagoon system to the open sea, and to conduct necropsies on dead whales to determine the cause of death.

 Akawaio penak,  a previously unknown genus of thin, eel-like electric fish, was discovered in the shallow, murky waters of the upper Mazaruni River is northern Guyana.
University of Toronto Scarborough professor Nathan Lovejoy.

Rice containing a transgenic modification that makes it resistant to a common herbicide can pass that genetic trait to weedy rice, prompting powerful growth even without a weed-killer to trigger the modification benefit, new research shows. Previously, scientists have found that when a genetically modified trait passes from a crop plant to a closely related weed, the weed gains the crop's engineered benefit – resistance to pests, for example – only in the presence of the offending insects.

This new study is a surprising example of gene flow from crops to weeds that makes weeds more vigorous even without an environmental trigger, the researchers say.

Like many other transgenic crops, Bt maize synthesises its own pesticide - a toxic protein produced in its leaves and stems, which kills pests in a matter of days.

It's perfect, except, as will eventually happen in all pest control instances, when insect populations develop resistance to the toxin.  That is why there are controls on how much Bt maize is in an area. To date, management strategies implemented to delay the evolution of resistance have been successful.

Dingoes have been unfairly blamed for the extinctions of the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) and the Tasmanian devil, a new study has found.

The Australian dingo is commonly blamed for the demise of thylacines and devils on the mainland about 3,000 years ago but Aboriginal populations and a shift in climate were more likely responsible.

The researchers created mathematical models to replicate the dynamic interaction between the main potential drivers of extinction (dingoes, climate and humans), the long-term response of herbivore prey, and the viability of the thylacine and devil populations.

The models included interactions and competition between predators as well as the influence of climate on vegetation and prey populations.

When people think about the benefits of science to agriculture, they often think about American dematerialization. Farmers are producing far more food on far less land with far less ecological footprint than dreamed about 30 years ago.

The University of Florida's Blueberry Breeding Program has been developing successful blueberry lines for more than 60 years and those lines are credited with helping to create a Florida blueberry industry that was valued at $48 million in 2010 and for allowing rapid expansion of blueberry production in other subtropical areas of the world.

In the past, blueberry flavor selection in the program was based on two standards: subjective ratings from breeders, and a berry's sugar-to-acid ratio. Recently, scientists have determined that the "eating quality" of blueberries has a much higher correlation to consumer acceptance and indication of "blueberry-like flavor intensity" than the traditional measures of sweetness, acidity, or sugar/acid ratios.

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are the only primates that hibernate - and their sleep patterns during hibernation are different from other animals that hibernate, like ground squirrels, which also hibernate at similar temperatures. 

During hibernation, dwarf lemurs experience periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep at relatively high ambient temperatures, but no non-REM sleep. Ground squirrels, by contrast, experience only periods of non-REM sleep at high temperatures.

The sleep patterns observed confirm a link between ambient temperature while sleeping and metabolic rate.

Research on the effects of nighttime pollution is still in its infancy. Scientists know that anthropogenic illumination has been steadily increasing over time -- at a rate of ~6% per year --but have a limited understanding of which species it affects, and how.

Nocturnal organisms seem particularly likely to suffer in the presence of light pollution, but a recent study indicates that responses to artificial illumination can vary even between close relatives--and that these variations can stem from differences in lighting regimes.