Post List

Ecology / Conservation posts

(Modify Search »)

  • October 2, 2015
  • 12:35 PM

Poop on a Stick Tests Penguins' Sense of Smell

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Who doesn't enjoy waking to a pleasant smell wafting past? Unfortunately for them, the penguins in a recent study woke up not to pancakes frying nearby, but to less appetizing aromas—for example, feces on a stick. But scientists promise the experiment taught them valuable lessons about a penguin's capabilities. Besides, they let the birds go right back to sleep.

"Research into the sense of smell in birds has a bit of a dubious history," says Gregory Cunningham, a biologist at St. John F........ Read more »

  • September 30, 2015
  • 08:40 PM

Zooplankton migration traps carbon in deep ocean

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

A new mechanism of trapping carbon in the ocean has been proposed by researchers studying the migration of zooplankton!... Read more »

Jónasdóttir SH, Visser AW, Richardson K, & Heath MR. (2015) Seasonal copepod lipid pump promotes carbon sequestration in the deep North Atlantic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 26338976  

  • September 30, 2015
  • 09:38 AM

Video Tip of the Week: Global Biotic Interactions database, GloBI

by Mary in OpenHelix

And now for something completely different. Typically we highlight software that’s nucleotide or amino acid sequence related in some way. But this software is on a whole ‘nother level. It looks at interactions between species. This week we highlight GloBI, the Global Biotic Interactions database. Before you start thinking of Bambi and butterflies, though, consider […]... Read more »

  • September 29, 2015
  • 04:50 PM

Border barrier biology!

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

All around the world, barriers can be found at borders. We're talking a structure (e.g. a wall) or set of fortifications (e.g. fences with guard towers and minefields) built to control the movement of people across a human-created line. While modern border barriers are typically used to combat some combination of illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and terrorism, classically they were constructed as a defence against invasion.Hadrian's Wall, built by the Romans across what is now northern ........ Read more »

  • September 25, 2015
  • 03:08 PM

It’s alive!! Study adds to evidence that viruses are alive

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Classifying something as living isn’t as easy as it sounds, after all we are all atoms, so when do atoms go from nonliving to living? Despite the complexities of viruses, we have historically deemed them nonliving. However, a new analysis supports the hypothesis that viruses are living entities that share a long evolutionary history with cells. The study offers the first reliable method for tracing viral evolution back to a time when neither viruses nor cells existed in the forms recognized to........ Read more »

Arshan Nasir, & Gustavo Caetano-Anollés. (2015) A phylogenomic data-driven exploration of viral origins and evolution. Science Advances. info:/10.1126/sciadv.1500527

  • September 24, 2015
  • 02:59 PM

Mexico City’s air pollution has detrimental impact on Alzheimer’s disease gene

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

A new study by researchers heightens concerns over the detrimental impact of air pollution on hippocampal metabolites as early markers of neurodegeneration in young urbanites carrying an allele 4 of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE). This is associated with the risk for Alzheimer disease (AD) and a susceptibility marker for poor outcome in traumatic brain injury (TBI) recovery.... Read more »

  • September 22, 2015
  • 04:02 PM

Taste Mutation Helps Monkeys Enjoy Human Food

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It's hard to be a primate who lives in northern climes and doesn't wear clothes. Resources are scarce, and you have to seize every advantage you can to stay alive and swinging. That may be why one group of monkeys has evolved an impaired tasting gene. Their worse sense of taste means they can better take advantage of the foods around them—especially the crops their human neighbors grow.

Japanese macaques, or Macaca fuscata, are also called snow monkeys. They live farther north than any........ Read more »

Suzuki-Hashido N, Hayakawa T, Matsui A, Go Y, Ishimaru Y, Misaka T, Abe K, Hirai H, Satta Y, & Imai H. (2015) Rapid Expansion of Phenylthiocarbamide Non-Tasters among Japanese Macaques. PloS one, 10(7). PMID: 26201026  

  • September 16, 2015
  • 04:00 PM

Immune system may be pathway between nature and good health

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Research has found evidence that spending time in nature provides protections against a startling range of diseases, including depression, diabetes, obesity, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many more. How this exposure to green space leads to better health has remained a mystery. After reviewing hundreds of studies examining nature’s effects on health, researchers believe the answer lies in nature’s ability to enhance the functioning of the body’s immune system.... Read more »

  • September 16, 2015
  • 08:00 AM

You And Mom Are Never Apart

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

You have more in common with your mom than you might think. Microchimerism means that an individual has cells with two different genetic profiles; some are yours and some are your mom’s. They live in your body for more than 40 years and can affect your health. Some of your cells moved into mom too – and they may help her live longer and avoid breast cancer.... Read more »

Cirello V, Rizzo R, Crippa M, Campi I, Bortolotti D, Bolzani S, Colombo C, Vannucchi G, Maffini MA, de Liso F.... (2015) Fetal cell microchimerism: a protective role in autoimmune thyroid diseases. European journal of endocrinology / European Federation of Endocrine Societies, 173(1), 111-8. PMID: 25916393  

Kamper-Jorgensen, M., Hjalgrim, H., Andersen, A., Gadi, V., & Tjonneland, A. (2013) Male microchimerism and survival among women. International Journal of Epidemiology, 43(1), 168-173. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyt230  

Eun, J., Guthrie, K., Zirpoli, G., & Gadi, V. (2013) In Situ Breast Cancer and Microchimerism. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep02192  

  • September 14, 2015
  • 03:05 PM

Viruses flourish in guts of healthy babies

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Bacteria aren't the only nonhuman invaders to colonize the gut shortly after a baby's birth. Viruses also set up house there, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. All together, these invisible residents are thought to play important roles in human health.... Read more »

Lim, E., Zhou, Y., Zhao, G., Bauer, I., Droit, L., Ndao, I., Warner, B., Tarr, P., Wang, D., & Holtz, L. (2015) Early life dynamics of the human gut virome and bacterial microbiome in infants. Nature Medicine. DOI: 10.1038/nm.3950  

  • September 9, 2015
  • 06:21 PM

Carving a path towards carbon pricing

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Why aren't carbon taxes more common? A new policy paper talks about the resistance and decreasing the cost of renewables can make carbon pricing the ONLY smart option.... Read more »

Wagner, G., Kåberger, T., Olai, S., Oppenheimer, M., Rittenhouse, K., & Sterner, T. (2015) Energy policy: Push renewables to spur carbon pricing. Nature, 525(7567), 27-29. DOI: 10.1038/525027a  

  • September 8, 2015
  • 04:51 PM

A tale of leeches and imminent nuclear war

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

The human experience with leeches typically centers around the unpleasantness of being fed upon, with perhaps a dash of they make good fishing bait or we sometimes use them for medical purposes. Oh, and jokes about medieval doctors being mostly useless. Notably, most leeches don't feed on people, opting instead to harvest the fluids of birds, turtles, fishes, frogs, salamanders, snails, and/or insect larvae. They've definitely found a niche, and boy is it an annoying one.The truth is substantial........ Read more »

  • September 8, 2015
  • 03:12 PM

Artificial ‘plants’ could fuel the future

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Imagine creating artificial plants that make gasoline and natural gas using only sunlight. And imagine using those fuels to heat our homes or run our cars without adding any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. By combining nanoscience and biology, researchers led by scientists at University of California, Berkeley, have taken a big step in that direction.... Read more »

  • September 4, 2015
  • 11:57 AM

It's Easy to Be Fearless When You Have a Good Shell

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Aesop never penned a fable about a snail. If he had written about a certain freshwater mollusk, the moral might have been Boldness comes from a strong shell or maybe Careless snails get chomped. But because the snail and its variable shell are real, their lesson has more to do with the the weird workings of evolution.

Individual Radix balthica snails can have differently shaped shells. They also have varying "personalities," at least as far as you can measure such a thing in a mollusk......... Read more »

Ahlgren J, Chapman BB, Nilsson PA, & Brönmark C. (2015) Individual boldness is linked to protective shell shape in aquatic snails. Biology letters, 11(4), 20150029. PMID: 25904320  

  • September 3, 2015
  • 04:01 PM

Fuels and fungi: A love story

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Fuels and fungi have a long-standing and intricate relationship. Before we get into the juicy details, let's examine the players.Traditionally speaking, a fuel is any organic substance (e.g. wood, coal, and oil) containing lots of stored chemical energy within the bonds holding its atoms together. This energy can be released via combustion, which we harness to move cars forward and generate electricity.Fungi are a huge group of organisms largely describable in terms of what they lack: locomotion........ Read more »

Haider R, Ghauri M, SanFilipo J, Jones E, Orem W, Tatu C, Akhtar K, & Akhtar N. (2013) Fungal degradation of coal as a pretreatment for methane production. Fuel, 717-725. DOI: 10.1016/j.fuel.2012.05.015  

Nicaud J. (2012) Yarrowia lipolytica. Yeast, 29(10), 409-418. DOI: 10.1002/yea.2921  

  • September 1, 2015
  • 12:06 PM

Parasitized Bees May Self-Medicate with Nectar

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Mary Poppins taught us that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. A bumblebee's favorite sugary drink may already be laced with medicine. And bees seem to dose themselves with medicinal nectar when they're suffering from a gut full of parasites.

Plants manufacture many chemical compounds to defend against attackers. Some of these are familiar to humans—like capsaicin, the potent weapon made by chili pepper plants. But not every animal enjoys painful food experiences like we do........ Read more »

  • August 31, 2015
  • 10:09 AM

Cow Pies Can Make You Smarter and Less Stressed

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

It seems like everyone is running around buying school supplies and books, registering for classes, and fretting about how hard it is going to be to learn another whole year’s worth of stuff. The secret to success, it turns out, may lie in cow dung.A cow pie. Photo taken by Jeff Vanuga at the USDA available at Wikimedia Commons.Recent research has highlighted the important role that microbes living in animal digestive tracts have on host animals’ health and behavior. This influence of our gu........ Read more »

  • August 25, 2015
  • 03:06 PM

Why Carefree Lady Fish Grow Larger Genitals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

The history of Bahamas mosquitofish is written in their genitals. Though you'd have a hard time locating a female fish's reproductive parts, they tell a story of predators, suitors, and finding a way to regain control.

Gambusia hubbsi arrived at Andros Island, in the Bahamas, about 15,000 years ago. The little fish live in vertical, water-filled caves called blue holes. Populations separated from each other by these caves are in the process of evolving into different species, pushed by ........ Read more »

  • August 24, 2015
  • 04:05 PM

Argania spinosa has goat ornaments and makes a useful oil

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Argania spinosa (argan) is a tough little tree endemic to a limited area in southwestern Morocco and a bit of very western Algeria (Tindouf). Patchy forests of the tree cover about 800,000 hectares of the semi-arid Sous valley. These represent a unique biotope and have been designated a fancy UNESCO biosphere reserve. The presence of the forests slows desertification, as the drought-resistant trees act to stabilize the soil. Argan trees can live up to 250 years and are able to make do ........ Read more »

Monfalouti HE, Guillaume D, Denhez C, & Charrouf Z. (2010) Therapeutic potential of argan oil: A review. The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 62(12), 1669-75. PMID: 21054392  

Paris C, Herin F, Reboux G, Penven E, Barrera C, Guidat C, & Thaon I. (2015) Working with argan cake: A new etiology for hypersensitivity pneumonitis. BMC Pulmonary Medicine, 18. PMID: 25888313  

  • August 21, 2015
  • 12:49 PM

To Avoid Mosquitoes, Stop Breathing and Be Invisible

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Hungry mosquitoes use an arsenal of sensory tools to hunt you down. They sniff out the carbon dioxide you exhale; they home in on your heat signature. But a previously under-appreciated tool in the mosquito's kit is the same one you use just before slapping at it in horror: vision.

At Caltech, Floris van Breugel put mosquitoes in a wind tunnel to tease apart how they find their meals. He used Aedes aegypti, a tropical species that spreads yellow fever and other diseases. The insects wer........ Read more »

van Breugel, F., Riffell, J., Fairhall, A., & Dickinson, M. (2015) Mosquitoes Use Vision to Associate Odor Plumes with Thermal Targets. Current Biology, 25(16), 2123-2129. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.06.046  

join us!

Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.

If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.

Register Now

Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.

To learn more, visit