Rebecca Recommends #3

It has been a busy seven days in the worlds of zoology, entomology, science and life in general. My weekly curation includes:

  • Feed the world and keep the trees
  • Zoology: in the museum with Roosevelt
  • Varroa mites and associated honey bee diseases more severe than previously thought
  • Jumping into jobs with Ribit
  • Fossils may reveal 20-million-year history of penguins in Australia
  • Despite their small brains – ravens are just as clever as chimps
  • Hybrid forms of the common house mosquito may serve as vectors between birds and humans
  • Study provides insights on evolution and diversity of dung beetles
  • Secondary invasion: the bane of weed management
  • The joy of swimming: an illustrated celebration of the water as a medium of bodily, mental, and spiritual movement
  • Rising carbon dioxide is greening the Earth – but it’s not all good news
  • On statistical progress in ecology
  • Adult bed bugs prefer red and black, but avoid yellow and green
  • Parade of professors or solo scholar?
  • A synthesis of transplant experiments and ecological niche models suggests that range limits are often niche limits
  • New study investigates the environmental cues dolphins use to migrate on the Atlantic coast of North America
  • Old-growth forests may provide buffer against rising temperatures
  • Field museum expedition captures animal selfies in amazon rainforest
  • Island foxes may be 'least variable' of all wild animals
  • Twelve new scuttle fly species found in Los Angeles
  • A trick of the light may help diseased plants attract greenfly
  • Shining light on Brazil’s secret coral reef
  • Five cool critters that find comfort in the dark
  • Deceiving no-see-ums, pollination of the pipe vine
  • How a macaque's brain knows it's swinging
  • Muskoxen hair analysis shows diet suffers during snow-heavy arctic winters
  • What does a dying forest sound like?
  • New research shows how different strains of bed bugs are able to resist insecticides

Feed the world and keep the trees

A worldwide switch to vegetarian diets could allow the planet's estimated 2050 population of 9.7 billion to feed themselves without cutting down any more forests.

Karl-Heinz Erb and his colleagues at the University of Klagenfurt in Vienna created a model of the global agricultural system that forecasts the next 34 years, based on predictions of crop output per hectare, cropland expansion, efficiency of raising livestock, changes in the human diet and other variables. The team reports that given greatly increased crop yields and grazing intensity, global diets could stay much as they are without deforestation. A switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet could, however, allow sufficient expansion of even organically grown crops into former grazing land, without the need to boost yields.

Increased trade between areas of high production and high food demand will be needed to make any of these scenarios feasible.

Source/read more Nature 



Zoology: In the museum with Roosevelt

The head of a Cape buffalo presents itself just inside the door of Theodore Roosevelt's historical home, Sagamore Hill, on Long Island, New York. A few steps further in are mounted rhinoceros horns, then a trophy room framed by elephant tusks. This is, in effect, the personal natural-history museum of the explorer, soldier and 26th US president. Roosevelt also donated hundreds of specimens to the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Between these two kinds of museum — the private and the public — we find the Roosevelt of The Naturalist by Darrin Lunde, manager of the Smithsonian's mammal collections.

Theodore Roosevelt standing next to dead elephant | [public domain]

Theodore Roosevelt standing next to dead elephant | [public domain]

Source/read more Nature 



Varroa Mites and Associated Honey Bee Diseases More Severe than Previously Thought

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. Key findings, which are published in the journal Apidologie, show that the Varroa mite, a major honey bee pest, is far more abundant than previous estimates indicated and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Also, the results show that the previously rare chronic bee paralysis virus has skyrocketed in prevalence since it was first detected by the survey in 2010.

Source/read more Entomology Today 



Jumping into jobs with Ribit

Interested in buying your own home? What about living without debt? Or maybe finding full time employment after graduation is your thing? Whichever one you choose (and let’s face it, we’d like all three), Australia’s youth are facing an uphill battle to secure one or more of these increasingly elusive life goals. With a quick Google search you can find a whole list of articles and books going into great length about the bleak outlook for young people, and most of us can rattle off statistics to back these claims up (youth unemployment is currently sitting at 20% — the highest percentage since 1997, in case you need one in your arsenal).

Source/read more CSIRO 



Fossils May Reveal 20-Million-Year History of Penguins in Australia

Multiple dispersals of penguins reached Australia after the continent split from Antarctica, including 'giant penguins' that may have lived there after they went extinct elsewhere, according to a study published April 26, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Travis Park from Monash University, Australia, and colleagues.

Stratigraphically calibrated phylogeny of Sphenisciformes correlated with tectonic movements and changing ocean circulation in the southern hemisphere showing how: (1) the Australian taxa are dispersed across the phylogeny temporally; (2) the Australian continent becomes progressively more isolated from other southern continents; and (3) a strengthened ACC (indicated by the black arrows) provides a new dispersal vector to Australia despite the presence of a strengthening Antarctic Polar Front (APF). Penguin silhouettes show verall trend for decreasing body size in penguin evolution: Top, archaic giant stem penguin taxa; middle medium-sized stem penguin taxa; bottom, smaller crown penguin taxa. Palaeoceanographic abbreviations: EAC = East Australian Current, pEAC = palaeo-East Australian Current, pRG = palaeo-Ross Sea Gyre/Tasman Current, RG = Ross Sea Gyre. The relative strength of the ACC and APF is shown by thickening arrows and lines through time. Black arrow = cold currents, red arrows = warm currents | [CC BY 3.0]

Stratigraphically calibrated phylogeny of Sphenisciformes correlated with tectonic movements and changing ocean circulation in the southern hemisphere showing how: (1) the Australian taxa are dispersed across the phylogeny temporally; (2) the Australian continent becomes progressively more isolated from other southern continents; and (3) a strengthened ACC (indicated by the black arrows) provides a new dispersal vector to Australia despite the presence of a strengthening Antarctic Polar Front (APF). Penguin silhouettes show verall trend for decreasing body size in penguin evolution: Top, archaic giant stem penguin taxa; middle medium-sized stem penguin taxa; bottom, smaller crown penguin taxa. Palaeoceanographic abbreviations: EAC = East Australian Current, pEAC = palaeo-East Australian Current, pRG = palaeo-Ross Sea Gyre/Tasman Current, RG = Ross Sea Gyre. The relative strength of the ACC and APF is shown by thickening arrows and lines through time. Black arrow = cold currents, red arrows = warm currents | [CC BY 3.0]

Source/read more PLOS 



Despite their small brains – ravens are just as clever as chimps

A study led by researchers at Lund University in Sweden shows that ravens are as clever as chimpanzees, despite having much smaller brains, indicating that rather than the size of the brain, the neuronal density and the structure of the birds’ brains play an important role in terms of their intelligence.

“Absolute brain size is not the whole story. We found that corvid birds performed as well as great apes, despite having much smaller brains”, says Can Kabadayi, doctoral student in Cognitive Science.

Source/read more Lund University 



Hybrid forms of the common house mosquito may serve as vectors between birds and humans

Researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna for the first time collected quantified data on hybrid forms of two species of the northern house mosquito in eastern Austria. The reproductive hybrid feeds – in contrast to the two known species of house mosquito – on the blood of both birds and humans. Hybrid mosquitoes could therefore serve as a vector for the transmission of avian diseases to people. Identification of the three forms is only possible through molecular biology. Morphologically they are indistinct. The study was published in the journal Parasites & Vectors.

Source/read more University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna 



Study Provides Insights on Evolution and Diversity of Dung Beetles

One of the largest and most important groups of dung beetles in the world evolved from a single common ancestor, and relationships among the various lineages are now known, according to new research by an entomologist from Western Kentucky University.

The study by Dr. T. Keith Philips, recently published in the open access journal Zookeys, provides important insights into the evolution and diversity of these dung beetles, which make up about half of the world’s dung beetle fauna.

A, B Cladogram found using Piwe weighting with K values of 8-10. This topology is considered to be the best supported in this study. Bootstrap values above 50% found for nodes indicated. A Oniticellini. B Onthophagini. * = no taxon image | From Philips 2016

A, B Cladogram found using Piwe weighting with K values of 8-10. This topology is considered to be the best supported in this study. Bootstrap values above 50% found for nodes indicated. A Oniticellini. B Onthophagini. * = no taxon image | From Philips 2016

Source/read more Entomology Today 



Secondary invasion: The bane of weed management

The Editors of Biological Conservation have selected this article as their must-read choice for May. The article is free to download until 25 April 2017. Richard Primack elaborates on this selection with: “Removing invasive plant species needs to be done in a way that favors native species, or the result may be that other invasive species may become dominant.”

Download the article here for free from ScienceDirect 

Source/read more Elsevier 



The Joy of Swimming: An Illustrated Celebration of the Water as a Medium of Bodily, Mental, and Spiritual Movement

“The truth is an abyss,” Kafka asserted in contemplating the nature of reality. “One must — as in a swimming pool — dare to dive from the quivering springboard of trivial everyday experience and sink into the depths, in order later to rise again … to the now doubly illuminated surface of things.” Alan Watts once explained the tenets of Taoism through swimming. More than a philosophical metaphor, the swimming pool is a place of great psychological potency — Oliver Sacks saw swimming as an essential creative stimulant for writing. Indeed, there is something primordially powerful about immersing yourself into the water and propelling yourself into motion and silent thought, the daily bustle of the world left to the land. “As you swim,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her beautiful meditation on leisure and the art of presence, “you are washed of all the excrescences of so-called civilization, which includes the incapacity to be happy under any circumstances.”

A very brief history of the swimming pool | Lisa Congdon

A very brief history of the swimming pool | Lisa Congdon

Source/read more Brain Pickings 



Rising carbon dioxide is greening the Earth – but it’s not all good news

Dried lake beds, failed crops, flattened trees: when we think of global warming we often think of the impacts of droughts and extreme weather. While there is truth in this image, a rather different picture is emerging.

In a paper published in Nature Climate Change, we show that the Earth has been getting greener over the past 30 years. As much as half of all vegetated land is greener today, and remarkably, only 4% of land has become browner.

Our research shows this change has been driven by human activities, particularly the rising concentration of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere. This is perhaps the strongest evidence yet of how people have become a major force in the Earth’s functioning.

We are indeed in a new age, the Anthropocene.

Source/read more CSIRO 



On Statistical Progress in Ecology

There is a general belief that science progresses over time and given that the number of scientists is increasing, this is a reasonable first approximation. The use of statistics in ecology has been one of ever increasing improvements of methods of analysis, accompanied by bandwagons. It is one of these bandwagons that I want to discuss here by raising the general question:

Has the introduction of new methods of analysis in biological statistics led to advances in ecological understanding?

Source/read more Ecological Rants 



Adult Bed Bugs Prefer Red and Black, But Avoid Yellow and Green

Researchers from the University of Florida and Union College in Lincoln, NE wondered whether bed bugs preferred certain colors for their hiding places, so they did some testing in the lab. The tests consisted of using small tent-like harborages that were made from colored cardstock and placed in Petri dishes. A bed bug was then placed in the middle of the Petri dish and given ten minutes to choose one of the colored harborages. A few variations of the test were also conducted, such as testing bed bugs in different life stages, of different sexes, individual bugs versus groups of bugs, and fed bugs versus hungry bugs.

The results, which are published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, showed that the bed bugs strongly preferred red and black, and they seemed to avoid colors like green and yellow.

Bed bug nymph (Cimex lectularius) | [public domain]

Bed bug nymph (Cimex lectularius) | [public domain]

Source/read more Entomology Today 



Parade of professors or solo scholar?

There are two basic models for teaching courses and the norm varies a lot depending on the type of ecology course. A single professor was responsible for the majority of classes I took as an undergraduate. However, these days the courses I’m involved with are done by a series of professors for particular subtopics. The contrast has me thinking about the pluses and minuses of these approaches.

Source/read more Small Pond Science Small Pond Science 



A synthesis of transplant experiments and ecological niche models suggests that range limits are often niche limits

Global change has made it important to understand the factors that shape species’ distributions. Central to this area of research is the question of whether species’ range limits primarily reflect the distribution of suitable habitat (i.e. niche limits) or arise as a result of dispersal limitation.

Source/read more Ecology Letters 



New study investigates the environmental cues dolphins use to migrate on the Atlantic coast of North America

Little is known about common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) seasonal migration along the United States southeastern Atlantic coast, or what factors influence migratory patterns. Therefore, our objectives were to: 1) document evidence for seasonal movement of dolphins in this region (that would indicate migratory behavior) and 2) determine if seasonal changes in abundance and temporary emigration (i.e., migration indicators) for dolphins along South Carolina and Georgia coasts are related to changes in water quality variables.

Tursiops truncatus | [public domain]

Tursiops truncatus | [public domain]

Source/read more Animal Migration 



Old-growth forests may provide buffer against rising temperatures

The soaring canopy and dense understory of an old-growth forest could provide a buffer for plants and animals in a warming world, according to a study from Oregon State University published today in Science Advances.

Comparing temperature regimes under the canopy in old-growth and plantation forests in the Oregon Cascades, researchers found that the characteristics of old growth reduce maximum spring and summer air temperatures as much as 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit), compared to those recorded in younger second-growth forests.

Source/read more Oregan State University 



Field Museum expedition captures animal selfies in Amazon Rainforest

If you've been on the Internet lately, you've probably seen a cat selfie. Now, a Field Museum expedition to the Peruvian Amazon has elevated the animal selfie phenomenon to a whole new level. Earlier this year, a team of 25 scientists trekked to the unexplored reaches of Medio Putumayo-Algodón, Peru and spent 17 days conducting a rapid biological and social inventory of the area. As part of their efforts to document the region's biodiversity, the team set up 14 motion-activated camera traps and used a drone to capture aerial footage of the rainforest. The results are amazing.

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) | The Field Museum

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) | The Field Museum

Source/read more Field Museum 



Island foxes may be 'least variable' of all wild animals

In comparison to their relatives on the mainland, the Channel Island foxes living on six of California's Channel Islands are dwarves, at two-thirds the size. The island foxes most likely evolved from gray foxes brought to the northern islands by humans over 7,000 years ago. Some think island foxes may have been partially domesticated by Native Americans. Like many island species, they have little fear of humans.

Now a new study reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 21 finds that the foxes also show a surprising absence of genetic variation. The study offers the first complete genome sequences of an island species that is a model for long-term conservation of small, endangered populations, the researchers say.

Source/read more Cell Press 



Twelve New Scuttle Fly Species Found in Los Angeles

A team of three entomologists have discovered twelve new scuttle fly species that were found in Los Angeles. Their study is published in Biodiversity Data Journal.

Source/read more Entomology Today 



A trick of the light may help diseased plants attract greenfly

Scientists from the University of Bristol have shown for the first time that plant viruses alter the surface of leaves, influencing how light is polarized and helping insects to potentially 'see' infected plants.

The majority of vector-transmitted plant viruses are spread between host plants by insects, in particular by sap-sucking aphids – more commonly known as greenfly – which are thought to be sensitive to polarization patterns.

Source/read more University of Bristol 



Shining Light on Brazil’s Secret Coral Reef

Ask anyone to picture a coral reef and they almost certainly think of sun-dappled aquatic communities in clear, turquoise waters. While that is the norm for the majority of the world’s reefs, there are striking exceptions—one of which can be found in the muddy waters off northern Brazil’s coast, where the Amazon River meets the sea.

Researchers previously had a vague idea of the reef’s existence, but until now they had no inkling of just how large and diverse it truly is. The most extensive study to date, published today in Science Advances, reveals that the reef covers an area larger than Delaware — some 3,600-square miles, stretching from the French Guiana border to Brazil’s Maranhão State — and likely supports many species previously unknown to science. The reef is so odd, in fact, that its discoverers believe it may constitute an entirely new type of ecological community.

Oceanapia bartschi, a sponge found in the Brazilian reef system | Moura et al. 2016

Oceanapia bartschi, a sponge found in the Brazilian reef system | Moura et al. 2016

Source/read more Smithsonian 



Five cool critters that find comfort in the dark

Are you a bit of night owl – sleeping all day and awake all night? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are plenty of other creatures stirring in the wee small hours.

Some animals prefer the cover of darkness and so, although widespread, are rarely seen. Thankfully a new book from our publishing team is shedding some light on those that go bump in the night.

Source/read more CSIRO 



Deceiving No-see-ums, Pollination of the Pipe Vine

Our most common desert Swallowtail is called after it's foodplant Aristolochia, the Pipe Vine. Supposedly the flowers reminded earlier botanists of the pipes that Dutch sailors used. As the great grand daughter of a German pipe smoker, I can see the similarity.  By the way, the Swallowtail lays its eggs on the plant, but it does nothing to pollinate the flowers. Pollination is left to much less obvious little insects.

Source/read more Arizona: Beetles, Bugs, Birds and More 



How a macaque's brain knows it's swinging

Any organism with a brain needs to make decisions about how it's going to navigate through three-dimensional spaces. That's why animals have evolved sensory organs in the ears to detect if they're rotating or moving in a straight line. But how does an animal perceive curved motion, as in turning a corner? One explanation, published April 21 in Cell Reports, from researchers looking at macaques, is that curved motion is detected when sensory neurons in the brain receiving converging information about linear and rotational movement are activated.

Source/read more Cell Press 



Muskoxen hair analysis shows diet suffers during snow-heavy Arctic winters

Analysis of hairs from muskoxen in the Arctic tundra indicates they had limited amounts of forage available and relied heavily on body stores during snow-heavy winters, according to a study published April 20, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jesper Bruun Mosbacher from the Arctic Research Centre at Aarhus University, Denmark, and colleagues.

Adult musk ox bulls animals | [public domain]

Adult musk ox bulls animals | [public domain]

Source/read more PLOS 



What Does a Dying Forest Sound Like?

You can actually hear a tree dying.

No, it doesn’t scream in pain as a denim-clad lumberjack joyfully chops its trunk. However, during the increasingly common periods of extreme drought and heat, a tree’s slow desiccation becomes audible through a microphone pressed to its trunk.

“It sounds a little like popcorn popping — little cracks and pops,” says William Anderegg, a biologist at Princeton University.

Source/read more Smithsonian 



New Research Shows How Different Strains of Bed Bugs are Able to Resist Insecticides

The wellness industry is booming, but it’s not just people looking for the latest “detox” diet. Some of our closest parasitic foes are well ahead of us in mastering the art of detoxification.

Bed bugs are one of the most loathsome of all pests that attack and bite humans. Their resurgence in recent decades has caused heartache to many a suffering victim. Eliminating an infestation can be time consuming and, more significantly, extremely expensive. This is of increasing concern as bed bug infestations are often hitting the least well-off members of our community.

Source/read more Entomology Today