Ecology & Zoology

Wildlife fences are constructed for lots of reasons, including having them killed by cars (and people along with them) to prevent the spread of disease and to protect small small populations of threatened species.

Near more populated areas, the concern is different; predatory animals will wantonly kill livestock and ruin crops, a few threaten human lives.

Separating people and wildlife by fencing is a mutually beneficial way to avoid detrimental effects but a paper in Science, clearly written by people who clearly do not live near bears, wolves or mountain lions, argues it is a last resort.


Six new species of Dracula ants from the Malagasy region have been discovered and they represent a completely new twist in the typically rigid caste system of ants, where anatomy is typically destiny. 

Mystrium species have unique features such as long, spatulate mandibles that snap together (Gronenberg et al. 1998); wingless queens that in some undetermined species are even smaller than workers (Molet et al. 2007); and large, wingless individuals intermediate between workers and queens, which behave like queens (Molet et al. 2012).


The University of the Basque Country Cell Biology in Environmental Toxicology group has conducted research using thick-lipped grey mullet and in six zones and report acquisition of feminine features by male fish in all the estuaries, not only in the characteristics of the gonads of the specimens analyzed but also in various molecular markers. 

According to Miren P. Cajaraville, director of the research group, the results -  Arriluze and Gernika in 2007 and 2008, Santurtzi, Plentzia, Ondarroa, Deba and Pasaia since then  -show that "endocrine disruption is a phenomenon that has spread all over our estuaries, which means that, as has been detected in other countries, we have a problem with pollutants."


The Rhynchohyalus natalensis in a recent paper was caught about 1000 meters under the Tasman Sea and it has two pairs of eyes, allowing it to spot danger from every angle. One pair is upward-facing tubular eyes, to spot danger from above, while another set is on the side of its head, to detect bioluminescence from deep sea creatures.

The second type of eye is typically associated with invertebrates. The authors write that this is only the second instance in a vertebrate, after Dolichopteryx longipes, with both reflective and refractive optics.  

I particularly liked the description of how they modeled the optics and image focusing. The authors have the same question I have; this is cool, so why isn't it more common?

Seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals can be unintended victims – by-catch – of global fishing. Accidental entanglement in fishing gear is the single biggest threat to some species in these groups, according to a new analysis co-authored by Stanford biology Professor Larry Crowder that provides a global map of this by-catch.


An ancient stick insect species,
Cretophasmomima melanogramma from in Inner Mongolia at the Jehol locality, may have mimicked plant leaves for defense as far back as 126 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, according to a new study.


Even after over 1,500 years frozen in Antarctic ice, moss can come back to life and continue to grow.

Writing in Current Biology, the team report that they observed moss regeneration after at least 1,530 years frozen in permafrost.  For the first time, this vital part of the ecosystem in both polar regions has been shown to have the ability to survive century to millennial scale ice ages and it is the first study to show such long-term survival in any plant; similar timescales have only been seen before in bacteria. Mosses are known to survive environmental extremes in the short-term with previous evidence confirming up to a 20 year timescale for survival. 


The agave's claim to fame is as the plant from which the distilled adult beverage Tequila, named after the nearby town that made it famous, is produced.

But that may change. A sweetener created from the agave plant could lower blood glucose levels for the 26 million Americans and others worldwide who have type 2 diabetes and even help the obese lose weight, according to a paper presented at the   National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).


Poisoning of dingoes - wild dogs - has a deleterious effect on small native mammals such as marsupial mice, bandicoots and native rodents, according to a new paper which found that loss of dingoes after baiting is associated with greater activity by foxes, which prey on small marsupials and native rodents.

As well, the number of kangaroos and wallabies increases when dingoes, the top predators in the Australian bush, disappear. Grazing by these herbivores reduces the density of the vegetation in which the small ground-dwelling mammals live.


Sardines have been a hot news topic in recent weeks. Environmental groups and others have claimed that the sardine population is collapsing like it did in the mid-1940s. 

The environmental group Oceana has been arguing this point loudly in order to shut down the sardine fishery. That’s why they filed suit in federal court, which is now under appeal, challenging the current sardine management.