Ecology & Zoology

How can science help save the wild finches Darwin made famous in the Galapagos Islands from invasive species?

By leaving cotton balls treated with a mild pesticide laying around. In an experiment, the wild finches used the cotton to help build their nests, which killed parasitic fly maggots and protected baby birds.

Self-fumigation works.

"We are trying to help birds help themselves," says biology professor Dale Clayton, senior author of a study outlining the new technique in Current Biology.

"The spotted owl is the poster boy on how to use the Endangered Species Act to accomplish a goal beyond the species itself and how things can get messed up."

Ban Nock writing in the Daily Kos

A paper in Zootaxa describes a new species of spider, Cebrennus rechenbergi, the only spider that is able to move by means of flic-flac jumps. 

The nocturnal spider Cebrennus rechenbergi lives in the sand desert Erg Chebbi in southeastern Morocco, not far from the Algerian border.

It's official - females prefer courtship over competitiveness. And she may talk with her friends about the size of your mandibles, but it really doesn't matter.   

Female mate choice and male-male competition are typical mechanisms of sexual selection. However, these two mechanisms do not always favor the same males.  Researchers have investigated the complicated sexual conflict over mating in Gnatocerus cornutus, the horned flour-beetle.

Male horned beetles have enlarged lower jaws – or mandibles – used to fight rivals, and those with larger mandibles do have a mating advantage when there is direct male-male competition. But until now, it has not been clear whether the females actually prefer these highly competitive males.

Sweet potato products have increased in popularity so growers and processors are interested in identifying ways to make the crop more widely available. 

Feral camels in the Australian outback are reviled as pests. Yet they thrive, totaling some one million strong.

How did they go from historic helper to overbearing invader? As usual, numbers make the difference. 

The deserts of the Australian outback are a notoriously inhospitable environment where few species can survive - but camels can. The dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) prospers where others perish, eating 80% of native plant species and obtaining much of their water through ingesting this vegetation.

Researchers report that they have discovered a new genus and species of electric knifefish in several tributaries of the Negro River in the Amazonia State of Brazil.

Professor Cristina Cox Fernandes at UMass Amherst, with Adília Nogueira and José Antônio Alves-Gomes of INPA, describe the new bluntnose knifefish in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and detail the new genus and species' anatomy, range, relationship to other fish, salient features of its skeleton, coloration, electric organs and patterns of electric organ discharge (EOD).

True to their name, these fish produce electric discharges in distinct pulses that can be detected by some other fish. 

Researchers have discovered little-known cave insects, four distinct but related species in the genus Neotrogla, with rather novel sex lives - the first example of an animal with sex-reversed genitalia.

Carbon dioxide, in its ionic form bicarbonate, has a regulating function in the splitting of water in photosynthesis. This means that carbon dioxide has an additional role to being reduced to sugar, according to scientists at Umeå University in Sweden.

Researchers recently used an array of high-speed video cameras operating at 7,500 frames a second to capture the wing and body motion of Drosophila hydei
after they encountered an image of an approaching predator. 

The fruit flies are about the size of a sesame seed and rely on a fast visual system to detect approaching predators. And scientists found out that even Top Gun pilots might be envious of the screaming-fast banked turns and slick moves the flies employed. In the midst of a banked turn, the flies can roll on their sides 90 degrees or more, almost flying upside down at times.