Ecology & Zoology

Though CO2 emissions have plummeted in the United States, as developing nations achieve prosperity they will want air conditioners, sanitation and food - and those all require energy. They sure are not going to let already wealthy nations tell them they must be stuck with solar panels.

So climate change may still happen, at least if energy technology stops and fossil fuel use does not. If so, how will plant species will respond to climate change? A 16-year experiment may provide answers. Of course, the experiment is small, the size of two football fields inside the Garraf National park southwest of Barcelona, but it is home to many protected species. So even if it can't model an ecosystem it can model part of one.
Should we ban cars because of their potential to crash? Or stop selling painkillers in case someone takes too many? If we take the logic the EU applies to regulating pesticides, then the answer should be a resounding “yes”. Thankfully, EU lawmakers have looked at the weight of evidence and concluded the risk of driving cars and taking painkillers is acceptable – no ban needed.

Pesticides get different treatment though.

Take the class of insecticides so much in the news, neonicotinoids, that some have blamed for problems with bee health. Didn’t the European Union ban them claiming they were posing unacceptable risks to bees? Isn’t that case closed?
In early times, a raven could be a bad omen, and a new study finds that ancient people were not wrong in thinking the raven might be planning on using a negative event to full advantage. It turns out, according to the paper, they plan ahead, just like humans, and can even forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future, which at least some humans do. Great apes too.

Ravens and great apes have not shared a common ancestor for over 300 million years, so what explains it? Evolution is not a straight line and the authors speculate that the cognitive "planning" abilities they share in common re-appeared, on a separate evolutionary path, in the birds. 
There has been some ongoing concern about bee colonies, even fears of an impending "colony collapse disorder", but both the fears and the causes have been misplaced, recent studies have shown.

Rather than being a mysterious effect due to pesticides (like neonicotinoids) slight variations in bee populations remain the fault of parasites. Yet that brings its own mystery. Varroa mites, the biggest culprit, are not very mobile. 
A newly named species, a giant, black, mud dwelling, worm-like animal, doesn't seem to eat much, instead it gets its energy from a form of sulfur. 

The public is often confused what 'discovery' means in science. It means it is being identified as a new species, not never seen before. The three- to five-foot long, tusk-like shells that encase the animal were first documented in the 1700s and are fairly common, it's the living animal inside that is being identified as a new species.  
Colony Collapse Disorder, the belief that honeybees, an important pollinator, are being killed off in droves, has been good for environmental fundraising but hasn't had a scientific foundation.

Nonetheless, it has persisted for 10 years despite data showing that periodic die-offs in bees are as common, and therefore predictable, as solar cycles and California droughts. From the time that records of bees were formally kept, there were reports of mass die-offs without explanation, a thousand years before pesticides even existed.
Let's be honest, most human dads do less work raising the kids than human moms. That's not true in all species, though. In a few, fathers care for their developing embryos more than mothers, and biologists speculated that this paternal devotion had evolved from ancestors entirely lacking parental care.

A new paper provides a new wrinkle. When fathers are more involved, parental care gets a lot more elaborate.

This is the first of a series of articles on Huanglongbing (Citrus Greening Disease) that is devastating Florida. Subsequent articles will explore its causes, effects and potential cures. 

The line between deliberately manipulating a story and poorly reporting the facts is perilously thin.

During Sunday’s Oscars, what is colloquially called the United States’ ‘paper of record’, the New York Times, launched an advertising blitz positioning itself as the highbrow ethical responder to the spate of so-called ‘fake news.’

“The truth is hard…to find…to know,” the ad, widely circulated now on YouTube, proclaimed somberly.

Its not a great idea to use surveys, but sometimes those are all we have. After environmental groups drummed up publicity about a colony collapse disorder in honeybees, for example, concerned amateurs began taking up beekeeping. Since nature is not a perfect system, and the new folks didn't know what they were doing, these amateurs killed off a lot of bees, but there is no checkbox on the survey for that, so they blamed pesticides.

Declaring things endangered, even species that were only just discovered, is good for business, and a species of hummingbird has been added to conservation watchlists and global warming has been blamed - except it isn't endangered, it's instead migratory.