Ecology & Zoology

Females don't always think bigger is better when it comes to males. Instead, it is just the opposite, in some instances. Females may be more attracted to small partners because they are less likely to get into fights.

In many species large males have more mating success than small males, either because females find them more attractive or because they can use their brawn to intimidate small rivals. They are also more likely to have more sexual partners and be less committed fathers.

Killer whales eat 375 pounds of food per day. Now imagine most of that is salmon, the food source they most often in the summer, and you can imagine how devastating that can be to the salmon population of the Pacific Northwest if such whales were higher population. That's equivalent salmon each day to what 200 Americans for a year (<300,000 metric tons per year total consumption.)

Salmon is currently the third most popular fish in the United States (behind shrimp and tuna) and one third of it comes from Pacific salmon, both farmed and in the wild. 

The determination about diets was made using an analysis of fish DNA in killer whale poop.

Why do the distinctive piebald patches seen in black and white cats and some horses occur? The predominant hypothesis has been that piebald patterns form on animals' coats because pigment cells move too slowly to reach all parts of the embryo before it is fully formed but a new study found otherwise.

Millions of trees are in peril from the drought in California but that is not the fault of climate change or even bad luck - every 20 years California has a drought as bad as what just ended. It is instead bad policy; California's water infrastructure has not been improved in a meaningful way since the 1960s and since then environmental policy has been dictated by lobbyists for activist groups, so the state can't build new reservoirs, to store water for when droughts happen, and they are forced to dump fresh water into the Pacific Ocean.

The trees aren't just in peril from politicians and environmentalists, there is also the ever-present wildfires and the destructive bark beetle. 

There is a bad habit in environmental circles, created by the academics that feed them information: Discovering a new species and immediately declaring it endangered. More evidence-based scientists recognize that over 99.99999% of all species that have gone extinct we never knew about in the first place so declaring everything endangered and claiming a domino effect undermines public acceptance of science. Nonetheless, a new paper adds to the former effort by saying we should forget species extinction and talk about species rarity.

The first national estimate of U.S. wild bees suggests they're disappearing in many of the country's most important farmlands--including California's Central Valley, the Midwest's corn belt, and the Mississippi River valley.

Scientists from James Cook University have discovered two critically endangered species of sea snakes they thought were extinct. They were basically hiding in plain sight on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, they just hadn't been since in over 15 years.

A Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, sent a photo of the snakes in for identification.

 "We were blown away, these potentially extinct snakes were there in plain sight, living on one of Australia's natural icons, Ningaloo Reef," says lead author Blanche D'Anastasi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU. "What is even more exciting is that they were courting, suggesting that they are members of a breeding population." 

Birds use sophisticated changes to the structure of their feathers, not dyes and pigments, to create multi-colored plumage, and that is why they never go gray. 

Using X-ray scattering at the ESRF facility in France to examine the blue and white feathers of the Blue Jay, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that birds demonstrate a surprising level of control and sophistication in producing colors -  it is able to change the color of its feathers along the equivalent of a single human hair using a tunable nanostructure.

One of the biggest controversies in the western U.S. in the last two decades has been keeping gray wolves listed as endangered. Wolves are predators and with no evidence-based policies regarding herd management, attacks on livestock and threats to humans were greater than ever. That changed recently because the US Fish and Wildlife Service implemented herd management to try and bring the population back down. 

Psychologists say they have evidence of tool use by greater vasa parrots (Coracopsis vasa). They determined this by studying ten captive parrots and seeing that the birds adopt a novel tool-using technique to acquire calcium from seashells. They also noted active sharing of tools among themselves.