Ecology & Zoology

Life isn’t always fair. Some individuals are simply born more attractive than others. In most cases the females are the choosy ones, whereas males will try to mate as much as possible. So being unattractive poses the largest problems for males.

In many species, males will present the female with a gift (food), because, while she is eating she doesn’t mind having sex. However, the amount of food given is not equal between males. In the scorpionfly, unattractive males might not get a female quickly, but once they do, they sure know how to keep her around for a while!

The scorpionfly

A new research study showed why threatened Caribbean star corals sometimes swap partners to help them recover from bleaching events. The findings are important to understand the fate of coral reefs as ocean waters warm due to climate change.

A Virgin Birth - parthenogenesis - may be a big deal in human culture but among wild sawfish in Florida it is apparently downright common. A new study finds that around 3 percent of the sawfish living in a Florida estuary are apparently the products of this type of reproduction, the first evidence of this in the wild for any vertebrate animal. 

In 2006 there was a serious decline in the number of honey bee colonies in parts of Europe and the United States and it brought renewed concern about another Colony Collapse Disorder, which had last occurred in the mid-1990s.

A new analysis of Ice Age birds has revealed that many of the birds were larger - despite what is commonly believed, the authors say it reflects the richness and greater productivity of the environment in the Ice Age.

They picture an unusual mix of birds in one space, the Middle Palaeolithic (Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 3) deposits of Pin Hole, Creswell Crags, Derbyshire in England, and a distinct Neanderthal Dawn Chorus.
It’s bee season and now’s the time to go outside and observe these popular insects.

Bees hold a relatively special place in people’s affections – we have them to thank for honey, of course, and they’re also essential pollinators of many food crops and wild plants.

But most bees aren’t the snazzy hive-dwelling orange and black characters we know so well. In fact, there are around 20,000 species of bee globally and just seven of these are honeybees, and the vast majority of honeybee colonies belong to only one species: Apis mellifera.

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.