Cold or 'flu??? Plus, Rebecca Recommends #9

I'm one of those people who cringes when I hear people say "I've got the flu" when, really, they've got a common cold. Firstly, it's not the flu, it's just 'flu or even the 'flu virus if you really insist on using the "the" word. Secondly, the influenza virus and the common cold virus are two different things.

Over the years I've suffered countless colds, some years more than others, and particularly when I became a stepmother to two boys - one in primary school and one in preschool. It's only taken me about three or four years to not contract every single sniffle the kids come home with! For me, the common cold usually starts with a scratchy throat - right up behind my nose - which gets progressively worse until it feels like it's on fire, then the blocked nose and headaches start before it finishes in my chest. Pretty standard.

But I've had 'flu only three times in my 38 years that I recall - once in high school when I was about 15 years old, another time when I was in my mid-20s, and most recently just last month. The first time, I had no idea what was happening; I was shivering so much and couldn't stop and was bed-ridden for a number of days. The second time I was at a friend's wedding and had to be driven home because I felt so unwell; I recall trying to repeatedly telephone my mother and sister because I was convinced I was dying. The third time I remember vividly: hallucinations, chills, sweats, fevers, joint aches, five days in bed, and asking my partner to come home from work to check on me because I felt so terrible. All three times the onset was very sudden. In hindsight, I might say that I felt lethargic the day before, but once the symptoms started they just snowballed.

Influenza virus, magnified approximately 100,000 times | [public domain]

Influenza virus, magnified approximately 100,000 times | [public domain]

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I was sick with 'flu so I missed a couple of editions of Rebecca Recommends, so here is the next installment...

In this edition, for the entophiles, insect camouflage; Asian tiger mosquitoes; honeybee circadian rhythms; bee condos; insect consciousness; insects of south-eastern Australia; Australian longhorn beetles; the similarities between bee and mammal social organisation; the Emerald Valley; and (for some great photos) midsummer in a German Forest.

What about penguins? If you like penguins, I've curated three stories for you about the world's first successful artificial insemination; how climate change in Antarctica affecting Adélie penguins; and "shooting" penguins to save them.

Sticking with the watery theme, if you love sharks you should check out Sharks and Humans: A Love-Hate Story from Smithsonian. Also from Smithsonian, protecting the Amazon's biodiversity; the past, present and future of agriculture; readers' questions answered; and plastic is forever.

CSIRO Publishing's journal, Wildlife Research, has some great, thought-provoking articles worthy of further investigation including:

  • Successional changes in feeding activity by threatened cockatoos in revegetated mine sites
  • Priorities for management of chytridiomycosis in Australia: saving frogs from extinction
  • Identification of kill sites from GPS clusters for jaguars (Panthera onca) in the southern Pantanal, Brazil
  • Fire and grass cover influence occupancy patterns of rare rodents and feral cats in a mountain refuge: implications for management
  • Control of the red fox in remnant forest habitats
  • Brown hyena population explosion: rapid population growth in a small, fenced system
  • An assessment of animal welfare for the culling of peri-urban kangaroos
  • A review of biodiversity outcomes from possum-focused pest control in New Zealand

Then there are two interesting articles from Nature about interdisciplinary science, as well as articles about junior researchers, Dolly the sheep, and the Devils Hole pupfish. And, rounding off a big week: the northern hopping-mouse, coexisting with large carnivores, and science communication.

Insects were already using camouflage 100 million years ago

Those who go to a masked ball consciously slip into a different role, in order to avoid being recognized so quickly. Insects were already doing something very similar in the Cretaceous: They cloaked themselves in pieces of plants, grains of sand, or the remains of their prey, in order, for example, to be invisible to predators. An international research team, with participation from the University of Bonn, has now investigated such "invisibility cloaks" encased in amber. The custom-tailored "costumes" also permit conclusions about the habitat at the time. The results have now been published in the journal "Science Advances".

Source/read more University of Bonn 

Free Articles Provide Insight on the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus

This week is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, and the Entomological Society of America is supporting the effort with a special collection of articles about the Asian tiger mosquito.

Aedes albopictus  |  James Gathany/Wikimedia  Commons [public domain]

Aedes albopictusJames Gathany/Wikimedia Commons [public domain]

Source/read more Entomology Today 

World's first successful artificial insemination of southern rockhopper penguin

DNA tests have confirmed that one of the three southern rockhopper penguin chicks born at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan between June 4 and 6 was conceived through artificial insemination. This is the result of a project led by Kaiyukan with the collaboration of Associate Professor KUSUNOKI Hiroshi (Kobe University Graduate School of Agricultural Science). It is the world’s first successful case of a southern rockhopper penguin being conceived through artificial insemination.

Rockhopper penguins |  Chris Huh/Wikimedia Commons  [ CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

Source/read more Kobe University 

Honeybee circadian rhythms are affected more by social interactions

Field study shows for the first time that social time cues override influence of light and darkness in regulating the natural body clock of honeybees, highlighting the complexity of clock regulation in natural habitat.

Source/read more The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

Controlling the Asian Tiger Mosquito, a Potential Zika Vector, is Possible but Difficult

Is there a tiger lurking in your neighborhood? The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is spreading in the U.S. and its preferred habitat is urban and suburban areas. Unfortunately Ae. albopictus is not simply a nuisance at backyard barbecues — the mosquito is a potential vector for Zika as well as other viruses which pose serious health threats. And many of the techniques that we have successfully used to control other species of mosquitoes are ineffective against Ae. albopictus. U.S. mosquito control programs need to adopt a new toolkit, and fast.

Source/read more Entomology Today 

More Drama at the Bee Block

I was going to write at some point about how one of the other benefits of putting up a bee block ("bee condo") for solitary bees and wasps is that their parasites have a harder time finding them there than in a more natural situation. Well, last week I was proven completely wrong about that. On the positive side, I identified two new tenants in the block in our backyard.

Source/read more Bug Eric 

Penguin population could drop 60 percent by end of the century

It’s a big question: how is climate change in Antarctica affecting Adélie penguins?

Climate has influenced the distribution patterns of Adélie penguins across Antarctica for millions of years. The geologic record tells us that as glaciers expanded and covered Adélie breeding habitats with ice, penguin colonies were abandoned. When the glaciers melted during warming periods, this warming positively affected the Adélie penguins, allowing them to return to their rocky breeding grounds.

But now, University of Delaware scientists and colleagues report that this beneficial warming may have reached its tipping point.

Source/read more University of Delaware 

Sharks and Humans: A Love-Hate Story

If you’ve watched Jaws or the newly released shark thriller The Shallows lately, you’d be forgiven for considering sharks as the universal symbol of human fear. Actually, our relationship with these ancient predators is long and complex: sharks are revered as gods in some cultures, while in others they embody terror of the sea. In honor of Shark Week, the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal team decided to show how sharks have sunk their teeth into almost every aspect of our lives.

Watson and the Shark (1776) | John Singleton/National Gallery of Art

Watson and the Shark (1776) | John Singleton/National Gallery of Art

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Shooting Penguins in the Falkland Islands to Save Them

Its unmistakable shape and crisp color scheme make the penguin one of nature’s most effective ambassadors — a fact not lost on Neil Ever Osborne, whose photograph of king penguins in the Falkland Islands emphasizes the sinuous lines and sculptural form of this second-largest penguin species. “My primary focus was the geometry of these animals,” Osborne says. This colony of kings, which the Toronto-based photographer visited at the height of breeding season in February, exists at the northern extreme of the species’ range, where warming oceans threaten the krill that form the base of the marine food chain — and thus threaten the penguins, which mostly eat fish. Osborne is planning a speaking tour with the photos to spur conservation efforts. The scientific argument for tempering our impact on the planet is crucial, he says, but he prefers reaching out “in a way that’s less about statistics and pie charts...and more about heartbeats and goosebumps.”

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Interdisciplinary research has consistently lower funding success

Interdisciplinary research is widely considered a hothouse for innovation, and the only plausible approach to complex problems such as climate change. One barrier to interdisciplinary research is the widespread perception that interdisciplinary projects are less likely to be funded than those with a narrower focus.

Source/read more Nature 

Junior researchers: Fewer papers would scotch early careers

Daniel Sarewitz argues that the pressure to publish is fuelling irreproducibility, but we disagree that the solution is to publish fewer papers (Nature 533, 147; 2016). In today's competitive arena, asking this of scientists — particularly junior ones — is to ask them to fall on their swords.

Source/read more Nature 

Dolly at 20: The inside story on the world’s most famous sheep

From incubation in a bra to an afterlife under glass, how a cloned sheep attained celebrity status.

Source/read more Nature 

When pupfish got to Devils Hole

A rare fish species living in an isolated cavern pool probably originated when the cavern first opened to the surface around 60,000 years ago.

Devils Hole, Death Valley NP, Nevada |  Ken Lund/Wikimedia Commons  [ CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

Devils Hole, Death Valley NP, Nevada | Ken Lund/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Source/read more Nature 

Meet the challenge of interdisciplinary science

To tackle society’s challenges through research requires the engagement of multiple disciplines.

Source/read more Nature 

Unfortunately, Reducing Deforestation Isn’t Enough To Protect Amazon Biodiversity

Forest loss in the Amazon continues, but over the last decade, it has largely been slowing down in Brazil. That may seem like a win for the region’s unique biodiversity, but simply halting deforestation won’t be enough to stem the loss in species, a new study in Nature contends. That’s because human disturbance — such as wildfires and selective logging, which can continue even when clearcutting stops — have an outsized impact on biodiversity loss, the study finds.

Source/read more Smithsonian 

The Past, Present and Future of Agriculture

Modern American supermarkets are filled with a dizzying array of products, ranging from ultra-processed to freshly picked.  But even as grocery stores in remote areas are beginning to sell exotic produce from halfway around the world, an increasing amount of our calories are coming from a smaller number of crops, staples like wheat, rice, and corn.

Source/read more Smithsonian 

What's the Difference Between Invasive and Nonnative Species? Plus, More Questions From Our Readers

The distinction between native and nonnative species does not disappear over time; if a plant or animal was introduced with human help, according to the Department of Agriculture, it is nonnative. There’s also a crucial distinction between nonnative species and invasive ones, notes Vicki Funk, senior research botanist and curator at the Museum of Natural History. To be considered invasive, a nonnative animal or plant species has to displace one or more natives. Chicory, introduced from Europe as a flavoring agent in the 19th century, grows wild in the United States but does not displace native plants; but kudzu, introduced from Asia for erosion control in the mid-20th-century South, does, and is considered therefore invasive.

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Do Insects Have Consciousness?

Amid the usual parade of creeping horrors — super lice, mayfly plagues and a “troll-haired insect discovered in remote Suriname” — the exterminator news site PestWeb recently shared a piece of unsettling intelligence.

“Insects Have Consciousness, Self-Awareness and Egos,” the headline read.

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Successional changes in feeding activity by threatened cockatoos in revegetated mine sites

Provision of key habitat resources is essential for effectively managing species that have specific ecological requirements and occur in production landscapes. Threatened black cockatoos in the jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest of Western Australia have a wide range, so their conservation requires support from all land tenures, not just reserves. Mining in the jarrah forest temporarily removes cockatoo feeding habitat, so it is important to understand how cockatoos exploit revegetated areas for food resources.

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

Priorities for management of chytridiomycosis in Australia: saving frogs from extinction

To protect Australian amphibian biodiversity, we have identified and prioritised frog species at an imminent risk of extinction from chytridiomycosis, and devised national management and research priorities for disease mitigation. Six Australian frogs have not been observed in the wild since the initial emergence of chytridiomycosis and may be extinct.

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

Identification of kill sites from GPS clusters for jaguars (Panthera onca) in the southern Pantanal, Brazil

Understanding predator–prey relationships is important for making informed management decisions. Knowledge of jaguar (Panthera onca) predation on livestock and native prey is imperative for future conservation of jaguars in Central and South America.

Panthera onca  | [public domain]

Panthera onca | [public domain]

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

Fire and grass cover influence occupancy patterns of rare rodents and feral cats in a mountain refuge: implications for management

Feral cats (Felis catus) are implicated in the ongoing decline of Australian mammals. New research from northern Australia suggests that predation risk from feral cats could be managed by manipulating fire regimes to increase grass cover.

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

Control of the red fox in remnant forest habitats

The European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is subject to control by poison baiting in many parts of its range in Australia to protect both native and domestic species. Assessments of baiting programs can improve their effectiveness and help ensure that long-term control outcomes are achieved.

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

Brown hyena population explosion: rapid population growth in a small, fenced system

In the past 200 years, many carnivores have experienced a widespread decline in numbers and range reductions. Conservation interventions include the use of small, fenced reserves that have potential restoration benefits for conservation. Over the past 25 years, the Eastern Cape province of South Africa has seen the establishment of many small (≤440 km2) game reserves, and the reintroduction of the larger, indigenous wildlife that had been extirpated by the early 20th century, including brown hyenas (Hyaena brunnea). These game reserves have restored the environment to a more natural state but little information exists concerning the benefits and implications of introducing elusive animals that are seldom seen after reintroduction. Fenced reserves have the potential to provide surplus animals that can be relocated for restoration purposes (where applicable) or serve as a buffer to the extinction of naturally occurring populations, but careful management is required to monitor populations appropriately, so as to avoid the costs of rapid population increase.

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

An assessment of animal welfare for the culling of peri-urban kangaroos

Shooting is used to reduce the abundance of kangaroo (Macropus sp.) populations in many peri-urban areas in Australia, but there is uncertainty surrounding the animal welfare outcomes of this practice.

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

A review of biodiversity outcomes from possum-focused pest control in New Zealand

Worldwide, introduced vertebrate pests impact primary production, native biodiversity, and human health. In New Zealand, extensive pest control (~10 million ha) is undertaken to protect native biota and to prevent losses to the primary sector from wildlife vectors of bovine tuberculosis (TB), primarily possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). 

Source/read more Wildlife Research 

BOOK - Insects of South-Eastern Australia: An Ecological and Behavioural Guide

A walk in the bush reveals insects visiting flowers, patrolling the air, burrowing under bark and even biting your skin. Every insect has characteristic feeding preferences and behaviours. Insects of South-Eastern Australia is a unique field guide that uses host plants and behavioural attributes as the starting point for identifying insects. Richly illustrated with colour photographs, the different species of insects found in Australia’s temperate south-east, including plant feeders, predators, parasites and decomposers, are presented.

Source/read more CSIRO Publishing 

BOOK - Australian Longhorn Beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) Volume 2: Subfamily Cerambycinae

Longhorn Beetles — Cerambycidae are one of the most easily recognised groups of beetles, a family that worldwide encompasses over 33 000 species in 5200 genera. With over 1400 species classified in 300 genera, this is the sixth largest among 117 beetle families in Australia.

Source/read more CSIRO Publishing 

Ecology and conservation of the northern hopping-mouse (Notomys aquilo)

The northern hopping-mouse (Notomys aquilo) is a cryptic and enigmatic rodent endemic to Australia’s monsoonal tropics. Focusing on the insular population on Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory, we present the first study to successfully use live traps, camera traps and radio-tracking to document the ecology of N. aquilo.

Source/read more Australian Journal of Zoology 

Plastic is Forever: The Art of Mass Consumption

This July 3 marks International Plastic Bag Free Day, a global event organized by Zero Waste Europe and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives dedicated to the reduction of single-use bags. But for photographer Chris Jordan, every day is an opportunity to spread awareness about the devastating impacts of disposable plastics. For the past decade, Jordan has dedicated his photography career to making abstract stories of environmental degradation visceral.

A gutted albatross at Midway Island | Chris Jordan

A gutted albatross at Midway Island | Chris Jordan

Source/read more Smithsonian 

Co-Adaptation Is Key to Coexisting with Large Carnivores

There is a pressing need to integrate large carnivore species into multi-use landscapes outside protected areas. However, an unclear understanding of coexistence hinders the realization of this goal. Here, we provide a comprehensive conceptualization of coexistence in which mutual adaptations by both large carnivores and humans have a central role.

Source/read more Trends in Ecology & Evolution 

Coexistence with Large Carnivores Informed by Community Ecology

Conserving predators on an increasingly crowded planet brings very difficult challenges. Here, we argue that community ecology theory can help conserve these species in human-dominated landscapes. Letting humans and predators share the same landscapes is similar to maintaining a community of predatory species, one of which is humans.

Source/read more Trends in Ecology & Evolution 

Science Communication Through Art: Objectives, Challenges, and Outcomes

The arts are becoming a favored medium for conveying science to the public. Tracking trending approaches, such as community-engaged learning, alongside challenges and goals can help establish metrics to achieve more impactful outcomes, and to determine the effectiveness of arts-based science communication for raising awareness or shaping public policy.

Source/read more Trends in Ecology & Evolution 

Similarities found in bee and mammal social organisation

New research shows similarities in the social organisation of bees and mammals, and provides insight into the genetics of social behavior for other animals. These findings, published in PLOS Computational Biology, use sociogenomics - a field that explores the relationship between social behaviour and the genome - to show strong similarities in socially genetic circuits common in honey bees and mammals.

Source/read more PLOS 

Emerald Valley, 2016

For several years now, Heidi and I have been making an annual pilgrimage to Emerald Valley, which lies in the northwest corner of Cheyenne Mountain here in El Paso County, Colorado, and at over 7,500 ft. in elevation. Every third or fourth Monday in June, weather and Old Stage Road conditions permitting, we have joined or led the Aiken Audubon Society outing affectionately titled "Blooms, Birds, and Butterflies.” They added “bugs” when I came along in 2012.

Source/read more Bug Eric 

Midsummer week in a NW German forest

After growing up with camera in hand since I was 4 years old, I discovered insect photography while I was still in high school in Dortmund, Germany. I bought what was then professional quality equipment: A nice Canon A1 SLR and the 100 mm dedicated Canon macro lens. Then I spent most of my money from allowance and working at a book store on slide film. I sold some images to nature magazines and gave slide talks at the zoo and our birding group. So I thought a lot of my slides.

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