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Ecology / Conservation posts

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  • June 24, 2015
  • 05:51 PM
  • 893 views

The benefit of order: new organic solar cell structure improves charge separation

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Organic solar cells suffer from fast electron-hole recombination, limiting efficiency, but scientists have found a cool new structure to prevent such limitations!... Read more »

Huber, R., Ferreira, A., Thompson, R., Kilbride, D., Knutson, N., Devi, L., Toso, D., Challa, J., Zhou, Z., Rubin, Y.... (2015) Long-lived photoinduced polaron formation in conjugated polyelectrolyte-fullerene assemblies. Science, 348(6241), 1340-1343. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6850  

  • June 23, 2015
  • 12:43 PM
  • 778 views

The New Way to Track Animals Is Tagless

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



There's good news for scientists who study animals that are too small to carry a GPS monitor, or that spit ID tags back out through their arms. A setup using an off-the-shelf camera can precisely capture an animal's path in three dimensions—without anyone touching the animal.

Emmanuel de Margerie, who studies animal behavior at the University of Rennes 1 in France, says there are several reasons to seek new animal-tracking technologies. To put a GPS or other kind of tag on an animal, yo........ Read more »

de Margerie E, Simonneau M, Caudal JP, Houdelier C, & Lumineau S. (2015) 3D tracking of animals in the field, using rotational stereo videography. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 26056245  

  • June 15, 2015
  • 12:50 PM
  • 803 views

Loving to Death

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

The brown antechinus may look like a mouse - but that is where the similarities end. Photo by Glen Fergus at Wikimedia.Although most animal species breed multiple times throughout their lives, a few oddballs put everything they've got into a single reproductive season, after which they promptly die. This is a rare strategy (for obvious reasons), especially in mammals. One Australian mammal, the brown antechinus, is just odd enough to pull it off.The brown antechinus is a small insectivorous mous........ Read more »

  • June 12, 2015
  • 11:42 AM
  • 683 views

Late-Rising Birds Become Cuckolds

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



You snooze, you lose paternity. That's the message of a new study on wild birds in Germany. Males that wake up the earliest are able to sneakily mate with other birds' partners. Males that sleep in, meanwhile, get stuck raising young that aren't their own.

Great tits (Parus major) appear monogamous at first glance. They stick with one partner and cooperate to raise their young. But, like many other birds that scientists call "socially monogamous," they sleep around. Great tit nests often ........ Read more »

Greives, T., Kingma, S., Kranstauber, B., Mortega, K., Wikelski, M., van Oers, K., Mateman, A., Ferguson, G., Beltrami, G., & Hau, M. (2015) Costs of sleeping in: circadian rhythms influence cuckoldry risk in a songbird. Functional Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12440  

  • June 10, 2015
  • 08:31 AM
  • 951 views

Climate change will affect the distribution and diversity of marine organisms

by Sarah Stephen in An ecological oratorio

Climate change will force marine organisms  towards the poles, but would they be safe there too? Human activities such as emissions from the use of fossil fuels, rampant urbanisation, deforestation, and modern agricultural practices, are all altering the earth’s climate in an unprecedented scale. Climate change not only occurs in the land, but also in water bodies. Studies have indicated that sincethe 1950s, the amount of heat stored in the ocean (ocean heat) has increased considerab........ Read more »

Deutsch C, Ferrel A, Seibel B, Pörtner HO, & Huey RB. (2015) Ecophysiology. Climate change tightens a metabolic constraint on marine habitats. Science (New York, N.Y.), 348(6239), 1132-5. PMID: 26045435  

  • June 9, 2015
  • 05:48 PM
  • 902 views

Vampire Plants: Sucking Life into the Community

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I would like to introduce you to the yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor). This little plant has pretty yellow flowers that belie a dark secret: it is a vampire plant. Okay, technically, it is a hemiparasite. The yellow rattle has green, photosynthetic leaves to make its own food, but its roots latch onto those of nearby plants to steal their water and nutrients. I guess you could say that it hasn’t gone full parasite. So what’s wrong with a little leaching of material from your neighbor? Must b........ Read more »

  • June 9, 2015
  • 09:39 AM
  • 752 views

What Happens When 28,000 Volunteers Are Set Loose in the Virtual Serengeti

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



What's a scientist to do with 1.2 million photos, most of grass but some containing valuable data about endangered animals? Turn the whole thing over to the public, if you're the creators of Snapshot Serengeti. This project caught the attention of tens of thousands of volunteers. Now their work has produced a massive dataset that's already helping scientists in a range of fields.



Most online citizen science involves a degree of tedium—counting craters, tracing kelp mats. But Snapshot ... Read more »

  • June 2, 2015
  • 05:50 PM
  • 1,108 views

Prototheca are shoddy algae that eat oil, sewage, tree gunk, and people

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

The natural world tends to defy easy categorization. Take algae, for example. A seemingly encompassing definition of this group would be small, simply structured green creatures that use the sun's energy to make food. So, things like seaweed and the vibrant goo that covers lakes and ponds polluted with nutrients. But of course it's not that simple, since kelp are freakin' huge and the colour palette of algae includes red, brown, and gold.Then there's the genus Prototheca. They're spherical&........ Read more »

McMullan B, Muthiah K, Stark D, Lee L, & Marriott D. (2011) Prototheca wickerhamii mimicking yeast: A cautionary tale. Journal of clinical microbiology, 49(8), 3078-81. PMID: 21653770  

  • May 27, 2015
  • 03:52 PM
  • 740 views

Expanding the code of life with new ‘letters’

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The DNA encoding all life on Earth is made of four building blocks called nucleotides, commonly known as “letters,” that line up in pairs and twist into a double helix. Now, two groups of scientists are reporting for the first time that two new nucleotides can do the same thing — raising the possibility that entirely new proteins could be created for medical uses.... Read more »

Georgiadis, M., Singh, I., Kellett, W., Hoshika, S., Benner, S., & Richards, N. (2015) Structural Basis for a Six Nucleotide Genetic Alphabet. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2147483647. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b03482  

Zhang, L., Yang, Z., Sefah, K., Bradley, K., Hoshika, S., Kim, M., Kim, H., Zhu, G., Jiménez, E., Cansiz, S.... (2015) Evolution of Functional Six-Nucleotide DNA. Journal of the American Chemical Society. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b02251  

  • May 27, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 932 views

Hermit Houses And Fiddler Claws

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Fiddler crabs are an evolutionary marvel. Their major claw is huge, it plays a role in mate selection, but not just in the way you’d think.
Some species are right-clawed and some can have the major claw on either side, but if they lose one and grow it back, the major claw might switch sides! The new major claw isn’t as good for fighting, so he fakes being strong and tries to win without fighting.
... Read more »

Backwell, P., Matsumasa, M., Double, M., Roberts, A., Murai, M., Keogh, J., & Jennions, M. (2007) What are the consequences of being left-clawed in a predominantly right-clawed fiddler crab?. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274(1626), 2723-2729. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0666  

  • May 25, 2015
  • 09:59 PM
  • 1,321 views

How houseflies resist the toxic effects of DDT

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Alright, it's insecticide day here at Rosin Cerate, and I've decided to look back at a classic.DDT is a synthetic organochloride insecticide, meaning that we have to manufacture it by reacting chemicals together, it consists of hydrogen, carbon, and chlorine atoms, and it's good at killing many annoying invertebrates including flies, lice, and mosquitoes.While it's useful in that it can kill insects, three key properties of DDT enable it to cause serious ecological problems: (1) it's often not e........ Read more »

  • May 22, 2015
  • 03:11 PM
  • 661 views

Air pollution is causing your baby problems, but breastfeeding can help

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Aitana Lertxundi has conducted her research work within the framework of the INma (Childhood and Environment) programme led by Jesús Ibarluzea of the Department of Health of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (region). The aim is to assess how exposure to environmental pollution during pregnancy affects health and also to examine the role of diet in physical and neurobehavioural development in infancy. The study focusses on the repercussions on motor and mental development during........ Read more »

  • May 22, 2015
  • 05:04 AM
  • 725 views

Evaluation of a spatial ecosystem model: predictions and data

by sceintists from the Marine group at CEES in Marine Science blog




Spatial Ecosystem models can be useful but need to be validated with data. Our study validates for the first time the spatial version of the commonly used Ecopath with Ecosim ecosystem modelling suite. We find that spatial distribution of fish species is well predicted by the model, but fishing effort distribution is not.

... Read more »

  • May 20, 2015
  • 06:04 PM
  • 1,037 views

Tiny grains of lithium dramatically improve performance of fusion plasma

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

While fusion might still be a far off dream, a new discovery may help bring that dream closer to reality. Scientists have discovered a phenomenon that helps them to improve fusion plasmas, a finding that could quicken the development of large scale fusion energy. The scientists found that when they injected tiny grains of lithium into a plasma undergoing a particular kind of turbulence then, under the right conditions, the temperature and pressure rose dramatically.... Read more »

Kaye, S., Abrams, T., Ahn, J., Allain, J., Andre, R., Andruczyk, D., Barchfeld, R., Battaglia, D., Bhattacharjee, A., Bedoya, F.... (2015) An overview of recent physics results from NSTX. Nuclear Fusion, 55(10), 104002. DOI: 10.1088/0029-5515/55/10/104002  

  • May 20, 2015
  • 10:18 AM
  • 721 views

Why Some Bugs Are Attracted to the Wrong Species

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



The squash bug mating orgies that biologist Christine Miller began noticing in gardens around Gainesville were nothing unusual. Dozens of insects were crowded together, the petite males along with the bulkier females, to search for partners. The unusual thing was that some males were copulating with females of the wrong species—apparently, they found them irresistible.

When Jen Hamel arrived at Miller's University of Florida lab to do her postdoctoral research, she took up the mystery o........ Read more »

  • May 20, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,026 views

The Ugly Butterfly Gets The Girl

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

A current theory is that humans (and other animals) perceive symmetry as beauty and is desirable in a mate. Symmetric bodies and faces are correlated with strength, overall health, facial beauty, and dancing ability, but also with extramarital affairs. On the other hand, on butterfly thrives on ugliness. Asymmetric wings actually help males fly better during sexual competitions and gives them a reproductive advantage.... Read more »

Little, A., Paukner, A., Woodward, R., & Suomi, S. (2012) Facial asymmetry is negatively related to condition in female macaque monkeys. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66(9), 1311-1318. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-012-1386-4  

Fink, B., Weege, B., Manning, J., & Trivers, R. (2014) Body symmetry and physical strength in human males. American Journal of Human Biology, 26(5), 697-700. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22584  

Thomas F, Doyon J, Elguero E, Dujardin JP, Brodeur J, Roucher C, Robert V, Missé D, Raymond M, & Trape JF. (2015) Plasmodium infections and fluctuating asymmetry among children and teenagers from Senegal. Infection, genetics and evolution : journal of molecular epidemiology and evolutionary genetics in infectious diseases, 97-101. PMID: 25725158  

  • May 18, 2015
  • 06:26 AM
  • 1,109 views

‘Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink’ – Safe drinking water and Adequate sanitation are indispensable for eradicating Cholera

by Sarah Stephen in An ecological oratorio

What has Cholera to do with environment? Absolutely everything!  In this post, we look at why clean water and safe sanitation is essential for eradicating this dreadful disease from our planet. Access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation could eradicate cholera. (Image - Sam Stephen) Cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or liquids contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, elicits the same fear today, as it did in the past. Although cholera has aff........ Read more »

Miwanda B, Moore S, Muyembe JJ, Nguefack-Tsague G, Kabangwa IK, Ndjakani DY, Mutreja A, Thomson N, Thefenne H, Garnotel E.... (2015) Antimicrobial Drug Resistance of Vibrio cholerae, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Emerging infectious diseases, 21(5), 847-51. PMID: 25897570  

Waldman RJ, Mintz ED, & Papowitz HE. (2013) The cure for cholera--improving access to safe water and sanitation. The New England journal of medicine, 368(7), 592-4. PMID: 23301693  

  • May 17, 2015
  • 02:48 PM
  • 603 views

Which is most valuable: Gold, cocaine or rhino horn?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Many of the world’s largest herbivores — including several species of elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and gorillas — are in danger of becoming extinct. And if current trends continue, the loss of these animals would have drastic implications not only for the species themselves, but also for other animals and the environments and ecosystems in which they live, according to a new report by an international team of scientists.... Read more »

Ripple, W., Newsome, T., Wolf, C., Dirzo, R., Everatt, K., Galetti, M., Hayward, M., Kerley, G., Levi, T., Lindsey, P.... (2015) Collapse of the world's largest herbivores. Science Advances, 1(4). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400103  

  • May 15, 2015
  • 10:03 AM
  • 934 views

Nature's natural fix to the ticking carbon time bomb in the peatlands

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Peatlands have long been seen as a dangerous store of carbon that could be released as glaciers melt and temperatures increase. But new research suggests Nature has some natural adaptations at hand to prevent such a release from occurring!... Read more »

  • May 11, 2015
  • 04:02 PM
  • 618 views

GMO beef with the heart benefits of fish, why not?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Sometimes you just want beef, but beef is high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in the omega-3 type. Conversely, different types of fish are high in omega-3, but we all know they don’t compare to that tasty burger flavor. So what’s a beef lover to do, well if you’re in China you might have some options! Chinese scientists have reared beef rich in the beneficial fatty acids associated with fish oils.... Read more »

Cheng, G., Fu, C., Wang, H., Adoligbe, C., Wei, S., Li, S., Jiang, B., Wang, H., & Zan, L. (2015) Production of transgenic beef cattle rich in n-3 PUFAs by somatic cell nuclear transfer. Biotechnology Letters. DOI: 10.1007/s10529-015-1827-z  

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