Ecology & Zoology

I like to use the Sneetches With Stars analogy (I did so again two days ago) because Theodor Seuss Geisel, famously known as Dr. Seuss, was spot on with the idea that humans would find a reason to be different from one another. In the Sneetch community, when one group had a star, they were superior, and eventually a savvy businessman came along and found a way to give everyone stars (which was delightfully both capitalism and communism, kind of like Science 2.0 is) and then, as predicted, when everyone now had a star the group who originally had stars but had claimed it was just nature that they were superior, bought star removal for themselves.

One of the concerns about the switch from incandescent to fluorescent lighting was that while the ballasts are higher frequency now - humans do not have to hear that annoying hum - they were right in the range that pets still hear.


Researchers have shown that, like humans, mustached bats use the left and right sides of their brains to process different aspects of sounds.

No other animal, not even monkeys or apes, has proved to use such hemispheric specialization for sound processing - meaning that the left brain is better at processing fast sounds, and the right processing slow ones. 

"These findings upset the notion that only humans use different sides of their brains to distinguish different aspects of sound," says the study's senior author, Stuart Washington, PhD, a neuroscientist at Georgetown.

Washington says the findings of asymmetrical sound processing in both human and bat brains make evolutionary sense.


Genetic variation is important in a healthy population and recombination, or crossing-over, which occurs when sperm and egg cells are formed and segments of each chromosome pair are interchanged, is a vital part of maintaining genetic variation.

Honeybees take it to a whole other level and a new study finds that the extreme recombination rates found in this species - 20X higher than humans, higher than measured in any other animal  - seem to be crucial for their survival.


The first three eggs of the rare ‘Akeke‘e have hatched under the auspices of San Diego Zoo Global conservation biologists. The newly hatched chicks represent hope for the survival of a small Hawaiian honeycreeper.

Eggs from two species of rare Hawaiian honeycreeper birds, the ‘Akikiki and ‘Akeke‘e, were collected from native habitat earlier this month as part of an effort to preserve these two bird species from extinction.


Researchers gave bumblebees the option to choose between a sugar solution with nicotine in it and one without and found that bees infected with the Crithidia bombi parasite were more likely to go for the nicotine-laced nectar than those that weren't infected.


A new study of animal behavior suggests that evolution is hard at work when it comes to the acrobatic courtship dances of  male golden-collared manakins, a tropical bird species.

There are about 60 different species of manakins, most of which perform, to some degree, a physically complex display behavior to both court females and to compete with other males. The new study says the ability to detect testosterone in the body regulates the acrobatic courtship and competitive behavior - bird brawn.  

Looking after yourself, and trying not to infect others, is a good strategy to prevent disease from spreading - not only if you are a considerate co-worker, but also if you are an ant, meerkat or other social animal, as revealed by an epidemiological model developed by the groups of Professor Fabian Theis from the Helmholtz Center Munich and Professor Sylvia Cremer from the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria.

In a Theme Issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on "The Society-Health-Fitness Nexus" published on 13 April 2015, they combine observations of hygienic interaction networks within ant colonies with epidemiological modeling to conclude that this strategy is best to prevent disease spread in social animal groups.


 By identifying and comparing the sequences of more than 400 receptors in the genomes of two fruit flies and three mosquito species, entomologists have unlocked one of the hormonal mechanisms that allow mosquitoes to produce eggs. They identified a single gene for a receptor with an unknown function within the species distribution.  



A common, humble field bug is spreading a disease that has already infected millions of olive trees in Italy.

Olive and citrus fruit crops throughout the Mediterranean are threatened, yet there has been a collective failure to recognize the danger and take decisive action.