Ecology & Zoology


A glimpse of wild brumbies in the Snowy Mountains. Credit: Michael Tristram/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

By Don Driscoll, Australian National University and Sam Banks, Australian National University

Man has domesticated animals for almost long as man has domesticated crops. In both cases, humans have engaged in genetic modification, selecting the best traits possible.

Because of that legacy, livestock such as sheep offer an intriguing way to examine adaptation to climate change, with a genetic legacy of centuries of selected breeding and a wealth of livestock genome-wide data available. 

In a first-of-its kind study that combined molecular and environmental data, professor Meng-Hua Li et al., performed a search for genes under environmental selection from domesticated sheep breeds. 


Five families of notothenioid fish inhabit the Southern Ocean, the frigid sea that encircles Antarctica, manufacture their own "antifreeze" proteins to survive.

Their ability to live in the icy seawater is so extraordinary that they make up more than 90 percent of the fish biomass of the region.
 They also suffer an unfortunate side effect: The protein-bound ice crystals that accumulate inside their bodies resist melting even when temperatures warm. 


Tropical rabbitfish have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate warms, according to a new study
in the Journal of Ecology.

The members of the team surveyed more than 1000 kilometers of coastline in Turkey and Greece, where two species of rabbitfish have become dominant since they moved into the region via the Suez Canal.


New research has found clownfish larvae can swim up to 400 kilometers in search of a home, which makes them better able to cope with environmental change.

Clownfish spend their entire adult lives under the protection of their host anemone but as babies they must wander the open ocean.

As part of the international study, a team of researchers to southern Oman, where they collected samples of the only two known populations of the Omani clownfish, Amphiprion omanensis


Clownfish spend their entire lives nestling in the protective tentacles of host anemones. Credit: Tane Sinclair-Taylor


Last decade, science faced an ecological puzzle: under hotter, drier conditions of global warming, forests should have been penalized but instead the rainforests thrived. It isn't the first time - the climate change that caused the death of the dinosaurs gave them a big boost also.


66 million years ago, a 10 km diameter meteorite hit the Yucatan peninsula with the force of 100 teratons of TNT. It left a crater more than 150 km across and the resulting mega tsunami, wildfires, global earthquakes and volcanism are believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs and made way for the rise of the mammals.


For lovers of wild foods, autumn means things like mushrooms and fungi of dizzying variety.

Intrepid treasure hunters scour the woods in search of delectable wild mushrooms and their not-quite-meat, not-quite-vegetable qualities.

A bonus: If you find some, you may be eating something not even known to science.

The Fungi Kingdom is enormously diverse and completely under-documented. Species are tough to know, and that is without counting the billions that have gone extinct without us ever knowing about them, but of the 10 million species likely out there, only about 100,000 have been described.


At nearly 100 feet long and weighing as much as 170 tons, the blue whale is the largest creature on the planet, and by far the heaviest living thing ever seen on Earth. So there's no way it could have anything in common with the tiniest fish larvae, which measure millimeters in length and tip the scales at a fraction of a gram, right?

Not so fast, says L. Mahadevan, Professor of Applied Mathematics, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Physics at Harvard. 

Using simple hydrodynamics, Mahadevan and colleagues that a handful of principles govern how virtually every animal -- from the tiniest fish to birds to gigantic whales propel themselves though the water. 


What do leopards in India do when prowling at night? Like with smaller domestic cats in America, evidence from a GoPro video around their necks would probably horrify pet owners, but scat samples for leopards in India's Ahmednagar's district in Maharashtra tell the story.

Leopards mostly eat dogs, it turns out. 

87 percent of their diet was made up of domestic animals, according to  a new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society. And that was mostly pets dog. 39 percent was man's best friend and 15 percent were even other cats. 17 percent was assorted wild animals including rodents, monkeys, and mongoose, and birds.