Ecology & Zoology

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. 

Acoustic disturbance has different effects on different species of fish, according to a new study which tested fish anti-predator behaviour. 

Three-spined sticklebacks responded sooner to a flying seagull predator model when exposed to additional noise, whereas no effects were observed in European minnows.

Lead author Dr. Irene Voellmy of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences said, "Noise levels in many aquatic environments have increased substantially during the last few decades, often due to increased shipping traffic. Potential impacts of noise on aquatic ecosystems are therefore of growing concern."

In Aesop's fable about the crow and the pitcher, a thirsty bird happens upon a vessel of water, but when he tries to drink from it, he finds the water level out of his reach. Not strong enough to knock over the pitcher, the bird drops pebbles into it — one at a time — until the water level rises enough for him to drink his fill.

Highlighting the value of ingenuity, the fable demonstrates that cognitive ability can often be more effective than brute force. It also characterizes crows as pretty resourceful problem solvers. New research conducted by UC Santa Barbara's Corina Logan, with her collaborators at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, proves the birds' intellectual prowess may be more fact than fiction. 

Mammoths and mastodons, the famously fuzzy relatives of elephants that lived in the American midwest, weren't as nomadic as previously believed – or Cincinnati was just a great place to be at the end of the last ice age. A study led by Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology at the University of  Cincinnati, shows the ancient proboscideans enjoyed the area so much they likely were year-round residents and not nomadic migrants as previously thought. 

They even had their own preferred hangouts. Crowley's findings indicate each species kept to separate areas based on availability of favored foods here at the southern edge of the Last Glacial Maximum's major ice sheet.

The size and age of plants has more of an impact on their productivity than temperature and precipitation, according to a landmark study by University of Arizona researchers.

Professor Brian Enquist and postdoctoral researcher Sean Michaletz, along with collaborators Dongliang Cheng from Fujian Normal University in China and Drew Kerkhoff from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, have combined a new mathematical hypothesis with data from more than 1,000 forests across the world to show that climate has a relatively minor direct effect on net primary productivity, or the amount of biomass that plants produce by harvesting sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.  

It's uncommon to identify a new species of mammal these days, but four new species of Ctenomys, a genus of gopher-like mammal commonly called tuco-tucos and found throughout much of South America, have been identified.

Tuco-tucos are burrowing rodents ranging from 7 to 12 inches long and weighing less than a pound. They demonstrate the broad range of biological diversity in the lowlands and central valleys of Bolivia, where all four new species were found.

When global warming happens, Atlantic salmon will likely be just fine. They have shown a surprisingly good capacity to adjust to warmer temperatures that are being seen with climate change.

The finding about Atlantic species adds to similar research about the heat tolerance of Pacific salmon. Scientists studied wild salmon from two European rivers. They compared a cold-water population from Norway's northern Alta River, where water temperatures have not exceeded 18 C for 30 years, with warm-water populations from France's Dordogne River, located 3,000 kilometres south, where annual water temperatures regularly exceed 20 C.

A new study finds that Silverback gorillas appear to use odor as a form of communication with other gorillas.

We're all aware of the concept of an ecological food niche and a web that extends from it - but it is pretty simplistic and easily leads to claims that if species X is used too much, we are doomed. Literate people know that 99.999% of species had gone extinct and we never even knew they existed.

But some are more important than others and so researchers have taught to make that abstract concept real. Biologists in a new paper outlined the position of fourteen fish species in relationship to their food in a four-dimensional food diagram.