Rebecca Recommends #2

In this week's edition of Rebecca Recommends:

  • A new resource for fighting the Mexican rice borer
  • New technology could improve insect control in cotton
  • Asiagomphus reinhardti: a newly discovered insect is named after a TU Dresden researcher
  • Swarming red crabs documented on video
  • Offspring for Sumatran rhinos
  • City moths avoid the light
  • Animal behaviour: some begging is actually bragging
  • Pollinators: Europe must block hornet invasion
  • Modelling: climate costing is politics not science
  • Fears rise over yellow fever’s next move
  • New beetle species named after Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Mark Twain
  • Coral bleaching on the great barrier reef may get a lot worse in the future
  • Surface mutation lets canine parvovirus jump to other species
  • Scorpion toxin insights may lead to a new class of insecticides
  • Study argues ‘winner-winner’ behavior may shape animal hierarchies
  • Right whales threatened by planned seismic surveys along mid- and southeastern Atlantic seaboard, say scientists
  • Viruses hitch a ride to greater infectivity in insects
  • Rewilding the African scimitar-horned oryx
  • Pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin on women in science, dark matter, and our never-ending quest to know the universe
  • Anthony Fauci is waging war against Zika, and preparing for other epidemics to come
  • Don’t heed the haters: Albert Einstein’s wonderful letter of support to Marie Curie in the midst of scandal
  • Feeding the world without further deforestation is possible
  • Impatience with the peer review process
  • More than 1,000 species have been moved due to human impact
  • New black fly species found on the island of Borneo
  • Ecology: change is in the air
  • Video reveals mosquito antics
  • Expect knowledge

A New Resource for Fighting the Mexican Rice Borer

A moth caterpillar called the Mexican rice borer (Eoreuma loftini) that has already taken a heavy toll on sugar cane and rice crops in Texas has now moved into Louisiana and Florida, and continues to spread through the Gulf Coast region. A new article in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management provides a more complete picture of the pest and offers suggestions about how to manage them.

Source/read more Entomology Today 

New Technology Could Improve Insect Control in Cotton

A new biotech trait currently in the development stage could provide improved control of thrips and plant bugs in cotton, according to researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

The new Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) technology, which is being developed by Monsanto, is commonly referred to as the “Lygus trait” because it was originally developed to protect cotton from tarnished plant bugs (a Lygus species). However, during field-testing, researchers also noted effects on thrips injury. Tarnished plant bugs and thrips are the two most damaging insects in Mid-South cotton production.

Source/read more UT Institute of Agriculture 

Asiagomphus reinhardti: A newly discovered insect is named after a TU Dresden researcher

The Russian insect researcher Oleg Kosterin and his Japanese colleague Naoto Yokoi have traced the dragonfly in a remote mountainous border region between Cambodia and Laos and named it "Asiagomphus reinhardti". They honour his merits and achievements for the promotion of the international dragonfly research. The dragonfly, about six centimetres long, lives close to mountain streams. So far, only male examples are known: a black body with yellow spots and green eyes. As a larva they live for numerous year dug in the mud bottom.

Source/read more Technische Universität Dresden 

Swarming Red Crabs Documented on Video

A research team studying biodiversity at the Hannibal Bank Seamount off the coast of Panama has captured unique video of thousands of red crabs swarming in low-oxygen waters just above the seafloor.

Jesús Pineda, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and chief scientist on the cruise, called the encounter unexpected and mesmerizing. The researchers describe their findings in a paper published April 12, 2016, in the journal PeerJ.

Offspring for Sumatran rhinos

Measures increasing the birth-rate can save the world’s smallest rhino from extinction.

A new study examines the decline of the Sumatran rhino in Borneo. It concludes that the remnant populations of Sumatran rhinos can only be rescued by combining efforts of total protection with stimulation of breeding activity. The researchers suggest to resettle small isolated populations and to undertake measures to improve fertility. The case of the recently captured female rhino in Kalimantan, Borneo shows the importance of immediate action. The article has been published in the scientific journal “Global Ecology and Conservation”.

City Moths Avoid the Light

The globally increasing light pollution has negative effects on organisms and entire ecosystems. The consequences are especially hard on nocturnal insects, since their attraction to artificial light sources generally ends fatal. A new study by Swiss zoologists from the Universities of Basel and Zurich now shows that urban moths have learned to avoid light. The journal Biology Letters has published their results.

Source/read more Universität Basel 

Animal behaviour: Some begging is actually bragging

A meta-analysis of 143 bird species finds huge variation in parental responses to chicks' begging signals, and shows that parental strategies depend on environmental factors, such as the predictability and quality of food supplies.

Source/read more Nature 

Pollinators: Europe must block hornet invasion

Another notable omission from the European Union's list of invasive alien species that are targeted for action is the Asian yellow-legged hornet, Vespa velutina nigrithorax (see J. Pergl et al. Nature 531, 173; 2016). Since its arrival in Europe more than a decade ago, this voracious honeybee predator has also caused human deaths from its sting (see K. Monceau et al. J. Pest. Sci. 87, 1–16; 2014).

The hornet's impact is severe in Mediterranean countries, where beekeeping is a crucial source of income. Local beekeepers have their own makeshift eradication methods (such as traps of vinegar with glue), but these also kill important insect pollinators.

Vespa velutina nigrithorax  |  Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons  [ CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

Vespa velutina nigrithorax | Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Source/read more Nature 

Modelling: Climate costing is politics not science

Nicholas Stern argues that today's integrated assessment models for quantifying the economic and societal impacts of climate change are inadequate (Nature 530, 407–409; 2016). We disagree with his view on the superiority of more complex models such as DSGE (dynamic stochastic computable general equilibrium) models, which purport to account for a larger class of uncertain future events.

Source/read more Nature 

Fears rise over yellow fever’s next move

Scientists warn vaccine stocks would be overwhelmed in the event of large urban outbreaks.

As the largest outbreak of yellow fever in almost 30 years continues to spread in Angola, scientists are warning that the world is ill-prepared for what would be a public-health calamity: the re-emergence of urban epidemics of the deadly infection, which could overwhelm vaccine stockpiles.

Yellow fever virus caused devastating outbreaks in cities in the past, but by the 1970s its mosquito carrier in urban areas — Aedes aegypti — had been wiped from large swathes of the globe; vaccination programmes also helped to confine the virus to the jungle. But now, as a result of the scaling-back of control efforts, Aedes mosquitoes have re-emerged in densely populated tropical and subtropical cities where many people are unvaccinated — and the Angolan situation has renewed fears that the virus might be poised to break out from the jungle.

Source/read more Nature 

New Beetle Species Named after Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Mark Twain

Michael Ferro, collection manager at the Clemson University Arthropod Collection, recently published an article that describes 14 new beetle species, all of which belong to the genus Sonoma. With these additions, the genus now has 57 species, 40 from western North America and 17 from the eastern U.S.

Source/read more Entomology Today 

Coral Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef May Get a Lot Worse in the Future

Climate change could alter temperature patterns in a way that stops corals from preparing for bleaching events.

A massive coral bleaching event has struck the Great Barrier Reef, with at least half of the GBR’s length affected. Scott Heron, of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, calls it “the worst observed bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef.” This could lead to mass death of corals, risking the future of a unique ecosystem that stretches 1,400 miles along the coast of Australia and is home to thousands of species of fish, invertebrates and marine mammals.

The future could be even worse, though.

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Surface mutation lets canine parvovirus jump to other species

Canine parvovirus, or CPV, emerged as a deadly threat to dogs in the late 1970s, most likely the result of the direct transfer of feline panleukopenia or a similar virus from domesticated cats.

CPV has since spread to wild forest-dwelling animals, including raccoons, and the transfer of the virus from domesticated to wild carnivores has been something of a mystery.

Source/read more Cornell University 

Scorpion toxin insights may lead to a new class of insecticides

In an evolutionary game of cat and mouse, predators have adapted a clever arsenal of new tricks to capture their ever-elusive prey.

Now, new research from Shunyi Zhu et al. appearing recently in the early online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, has identified the molecular clues driving the effectiveness of scorpion toxins.

Source/read more Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press) 

Study Argues ‘Winner-Winner’ Behavior May Shape Animal Hierarchies

Researchers have developed a behavioral model that explains the complexity and diversity of social hierarchies in ants, and which scientists believe may help us understand the nature of other animal societies – from primates to dolphins. The work was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of Oxford and Arizona State University.

Right Whales Threatened by Planned Seismic Surveys Along Mid- and Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, Say Scientists

A series of seismic surveys for oil and gas planned for the mid- and southeastern Atlantic coastal areas of the United States pose a substantial threat to one of the world’s most endangered whale species, according to a group of renowned marine mammal scientists urging a halt to the surveys in a statement released today.

Source/read more Wildlife Conservation Society 


An international research team including scientists from Spain, Mexico and the Netherlands have found evidence of a previously unknown interaction between viruses.

Scientists have discovered evidence of one virus parasitising another, improving its infectivity or ability to enter, survive and multiply in a host. Specifically, the iflavirus hitch-hikes on the back of the baculovirus, a virus used since the 1940s as the basis for biological pesticides in crop fields, meaning the work has potential implications in plague control and ecology. Their study was published in PeerJ in March.

Source/read more Asociación RUVID 

Rewilding the African Scimitar-Horned Oryx

In a historic first, an animal that went extinct in the African wild is reintroduced, giving hope for many endangered species.

Imagine the American west without the bison or Australia without kangaroos. That would approach what the African nation of Chad has been like since losing it's most iconic animal, the scimitar-horned oryx.

Sometime during the 1980s, the last wild oryx died. It has been 30 years since the animal was last seen in Chad. Working in partnership, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Sahara Conservation Fund and the governments of Abu Dhabi and Chad will release later this summer 25 oryx into the wild. The animals arrived in the country by air transport last month and are now acclimating to the area inside a large holding pen. This will be the first attempt ever to restore a large animal to Africa after it had completely disappeared.

A group of scimitar oryx at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, Great Britain |  The Land/Wikimedia Commons  [ CC BY-SA 3.0 ]

A group of scimitar oryx at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, Great Britain | The Land/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Pioneering Astronomer Vera Rubin on Women in Science, Dark Matter, and Our Never-Ending Quest to Know the Universe

When trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell was hired to teach at the newly established Vassar College in 1865, she was the only woman on the faculty and according to the original college handbook of rules, female students were not allowed to go outside after dark. Although Mitchell fought to upend this absurd obstruction to the study of astronomy and became a tireless champion of young women in the field, lamentably little changed in the century that followed.

Source/read more Brain Pickings 

Anthony Fauci Is Waging War Against Zika, and Preparing for Other Epidemics to Come

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases talks about developing a Zika vaccine.

It is one thing to know the science of epidemics — why they start, how they spread, who’s at risk. But to truly understand a disease’s impact, Anthony Fauci believes you need to see its victims. And so, last year, when a health care worker who had contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone was being treated at the National Institutes of Health, Fauci often broke from his busy schedule and donned a bulky protective suit so he could personally examine the patient.

That’s all part of the job for Fauci, who has been America’s point person in confronting epidemics and other public health crises for decades.

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Don’t Heed the Haters: Albert Einstein’s Wonderful Letter of Support to Marie Curie in the Midst of Scandal

Few things are more disheartening to witness than the bile which small-spirited people of inferior talent often direct at those endowed with genius. And few things are more heartening to witness than the solidarity and support which kindred spirits of goodwill extend to those targeted by such loathsome attacks.

Marie Curie | [public domain]

Marie Curie | [public domain]

Source/read more Brain Pickings 

Feeding the world without further deforestation is possible

Deforestation is necessary to feed the growing global population – this is a common belief that has now been disproved by researchers of the Institute of Social Ecology, Vienna. In a study published in NATURE Communications they present results that reveal that it is possible to produce sufficient food for the world in 2050 and at the same time maintain the current forests of the world.

Source/read more Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt | Graz | Wien 

Impatience with the peer review process

Science has a thousand problems, but the time it takes for our manuscripts to be peer reviewed ain’t one. At least, that’s how I feel. How about you?

I hear folks griping about the slow editorial process all the time. Then I ask, “how long has it been?” And I get an answer, like, oh almost two whole months. Can you believe it? Two months?!”

Source/read more Small Pond Science 

More than 1,000 species have been moved due to human impact

Animals and plants are increasingly being ‘translocated’ from their native areas to survive effects of climate change, poaching and habitat loss, says top conservationist.

More than 1,000 species have had to be relocated because of climate change, poaching and humans taking their habitat, according to a top conservationist.

Dr Axel Moehrenschlager said cases of “translocation”, such as India’s plan to relocate tigers to Cambodia or South Africa’s scheme to airlift rhinos to Australia, have increased exponentially in recent decades and will become more common due to human pressures driving species closer to extinction.

Source/read more The Guardian 

New Black Fly Species Found on the Island of Borneo

A new species of black fly has been discovered in Indonesia on the island of Borneo. The new species, which belongs to the family Simuliidae, is described in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

A team of researchers from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, discovered the new species while surveying aquatic stages of black flies in Indonesia. In total, they collected nine species, and two of them were new to science, although only one is described in the JME paper.

Source/read more Entomology Today 

Ecology: Change is in the air

Reptile researcher Russell Burke saw 14 years of fieldwork nearly wiped out in a moment, when Hurricane Sandy hit the US east coast in 2012. Since 1998, he had been studying the population dynamics of two native species of turtle — their clutch size, seasonal movements and more — at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in New York City, near his workplace at Hofstra University in Hempstead.

But in 2012, storm surges breached the wall of a pond that was home to 22 snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) in his study, and all were killed when the waves turned the pond from freshwater to salt. The region's diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), which prefer brackish waters, fared better there. Burke noted intriguing responses. “They started nesting in places they hadn't before, and stopped in others where they had,” he says. But the breach lost him easy access to the terrapins' nesting area, so his team could examine only a fraction of the nests.

Chelydra serpentina  |  Leejcooper/Wikimedia Commons  [ CC BY-SA 3.0 ]

Source/read more Nature 

Video reveals mosquito antics

Video monitoring has shown that mosquitoes spend most of the time near the head of a person lying under a bednet at night.

Mosquitoes carry several human diseases but are difficult to study in the field. David Towers at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, and his co-workers used infrared light-emitting diode backlighting to make mosquitoes visible on video. They filmed the insects with two cameras at night around a mosquito net in the laboratory and in the field in Tanzania. The team developed algorithms to track individual mosquitoes, and found that the insects focused their efforts around the roof of the net, above the person's head. The mosquito species that transmits West Nile virus (Culex quinquefasciatus) tended to be more active than the carrier of human malaria, Anopheles gambiae.

Source/read more Nature 

Expect knowledge

We are gratified when a politician shows that they know about science, but they all should.

“Swans sing before they die —” said poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “’Twere no bad thing/Should certain persons die before they sing.” Now, not everyone can carry a tune. Neither can everyone act any better than the average block of wood — which is why people at large seem to lend credence to singers, actors and other celebrities when they effuse on subjects that they know nothing about.

No one can doubt the prodigious acting talent of Robert De Niro, but does his turn as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, or the tortured Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, qualify him to opine on the link between vaccination and autism? Is he talking to me? I repeat: is he talking to me? (Clue for any readers bewildered by this: despite statements made by De Niro last week, there is no evidence for any link between vaccination and autism.)

Source/read more Nature