Ecology & Zoology

Credit: Wikipedia

By Peter Gwynne, Inside Science

(Inside Science) – Each day small sea creatures known as plankton rise from deep underwater to the ocean's surface during the night and then return to the depths in daytime. Zoologists describe this “diel” movement, named after the Latin word for day, as Earth’s biggest migration.

Modern day kangaroos exhibit a hopping form of locomotion. Credit: Leo/Flickr, CC BY-SA

By Christine Janis, Brown University

Extinct giant kangaroos may have been built more for walking, rather than hopping like today’s kangaroos, especially when moving slowly.

Human bathroom walls contain messages that are wonderfully informative about our modern condition - they can tell you who to call if you have an evolutionary mandate to procreate or even notify you that someone else once peed in the same spot.

White-footed sportive lemurs learn a lot about each other due to bathrooms also. Only instead of writing on the walls, they use scent-marks to communicate with their own kind. A study published online in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology by Iris Dröscher and Peter Kappeler from the German Primate Center (DPZ) found that the urine left on latrine trees serves as a method to maintain contact with family members. It also serves as a means to inform an intruder that there is a male that will defend his partner.

Not every human can be a great leader but not everyone is made to follow either. This has been shown to apply to elsewhere in the animal kingdom as well: insect larvae follow a leader to forage for food, both leaders and followers benefit, growing much faster than if they are in a group of only leaders or only followers, according to a new study.

The research looked at larvae of the iconic Australian steel-blue sawfly Perga affinis often known as 'spitfires'. Sawfly larvae can grow to 7 centimeters long and forage nocturnally in Australian Eucalyptus trees, forming large groups that can strip all of the leaves from a tree in a few days.

No, it's nothing to do with a reptilian existential crisis – just a name game. Credit: melanie cook/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

By Dustin Welbourne

You have likely been to a zoo at some point and visited their reptile house.

A building where the climate control dial is stuck on the “wet sauna” setting, and filled with maniacal children competing to be the first to press their ice cream covered face and hands on every available piece of clean glass.

Why is biodiversity is higher in the tropics than in colder regions? It's one of ecology’s unsolved puzzles and has been since the European explorers and naturalists of the 17th and 18th centuries discovered there is a stunningly rich biodiversity in the tropics compared to the temperate regions of the world.

A research effort led by University of Arizona ecologists has now unearthed unexpected answers and helped found a new discipline, they call it functional biogeography, in the process.

Credit: Wing-Chi Poon, CC BY-SA

By Sana Suri, University of Oxford

The 2014 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to three neuroscientists for their pioneering work on the brain’s “inner GPS system”. Over the course of four decades, they revealed that a small part in the brain called the hippocampus stores a map of animals' surroundings and helps them navigate.

A research team has discovered that a snail long confused with a far more common snail is actually distinct - and so they named it Aegista diversifamilia. 'Diverse family' being in honor of the modern gay marriage movement, the authors say.

Aegista subchinensis of Taiwan was first described in 1884. In 2003, one of the co-authors Dr. Yen-Chang Lee noticed that there was morphological divergence between the western and eastern populations of A. subchinensis, separated by the Central Mountain Range, a major biogeographic barrier in Taiwan. Lee suggested that there might be cryptic species within the one identified as A. subchinensis at the time.

Credit: Ed Bierman, CC BY

By Clive Trueman, University of Southampton

Fish are acutely aware of sea temperature; it’s one of the key reasons particular species of fish live where they do.

As the oceans warm however, many tropical species are moving towards cooler climes. So might the traditional cod and chips one day be replaced by Nemo and chips?

What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin, one of mankind's greatest musical inventions? More than you think.

Dan Chitwood, Ph.D., assistant member, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri
spends most of his time exploring genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying diversity in plant morphology - how leaf shapes are formed and what that means for a plant to grow and thrive. He also studies how leaf shapes change as plant species evolve to adapt in different environments. Research into why a desert-adapted tomato species can survive with little water, for example, sheds light on how leaf architecture affects the efficiency of plant water use.