National-scale effort addresses pollinator declines
May 20, 2015 03:51 PM - Puneet Kollipara, Science/AAAS
A new White House plan to promote the health of bees and other pollinators calls for boosting research into ongoing population declines—and potential solutions. The plan, released yesterday, also recommends numerous measures to address growing concerns about the threat that bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators face from multiple factors, including pathogens, pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss. By addressing scientific knowledge gaps, the research should make the plan’s suggested measures much more effective, the report says.
How Genetics Can Save Endangered Mussels
May 18, 2015 09:16 AM - USGS Newsroom
A piece of the restoration puzzle to save populations of endangered freshwater mussels may have been found, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey led study. Local population losses in a river may not result in irreversible loss of mussel species; other mussels from within the same river could be used as sources to restore declining populations.
Bird populations responding to climate change
May 16, 2015 08:53 AM - University of Utah
With puzzling variability, vast numbers of birds from Canada’s boreal forests migrate hundreds or thousands of miles south from their usual winter range. These so-called irruptions were first noticed by birdwatchers decades ago, but the driving factors have never been fully explained. Now scientists have pinpointed the climate pattern that likely sets the stage for irruptions – a discovery that could make it possible to predict the events more than a year in advance.
The researchers found that persistent shifts in rainfall and temperature drive boom-and-bust cycles in forest seed production, which in turn drive the mass migrations of pine siskins, the most widespread and visible of the irruptive migrants. “It’s a chain reaction from climate to seeds to birds,” says atmospheric scientist Court Strong, an assistant professor at the University of Utah and lead author of the study.
Happy Endangered Species Day!
May 15, 2015 08:43 AM - Editor, Population Matters
Started in 2006, Endangered Species Day is “a celebration of wildlife and wild places” intended to promote the “importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions people can take to help protect them”. Every year on the third Friday in May — and throughout the month — zoos, aquariums, parks, botanical gardens, wildlife refuges, museums, schools, community centers, conservation groups and other organizations hold tours, speaker presentations, exhibits, children’s activities and more to commemorate the Day.
World's largest herbivores in danger of extinction due to hunting and habitat loss
May 15, 2015 08:25 AM - UCLA Newsroom
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.
The study, which was co-authored by Blaire Van Valkenburgh, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was recently published in the open-access online journal Science Advances.
New Research Identifies First Warm-Blooded Fish
May 14, 2015 02:53 PM - NOAA Fisheries
New research by NOAA Fisheries has revealed the opah, or moonfish, as the first fully warm-blooded fish that circulates heated blood throughout its body much like mammals and birds, giving it a competitive advantage in the cold ocean depths. The silvery fish, roughly the size of a large automobile tire, is known from oceans around the world and dwells hundreds of feet beneath the surface in chilly, dimly lit waters. It swims by rapidly flapping its large, red pectoral fins like wings through the water.
Would you give up chocolate to save a friend?
May 13, 2015 12:06 PM - Emily Underwood, Science/AAAS
We’ve all heard how rats will abandon a sinking ship. But will the rodents attempt to save their companions in the process? A new study shows that rats will, indeed, rescue their distressed pals from the drink—even when they’re offered chocolate instead. They’re also more likely to help when they’ve had an unpleasant swimming experience of their own, adding to growing evidence that the rodents feel empathy.
40% of Honey Bee Colonies Lost Last Year
May 13, 2015 10:53 AM - University of Maryland
Beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015, according to the latest results of an annual nationwide survey led by a University of Maryland professor. While winter loss rates improved slightly compared to last year, summer losses—and consequently, total annual losses—were more severe. Commercial beekeepers were hit particularly hard by the high rate of summer losses, which outstripped winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies.
No Sunscreen Needed
May 12, 2015 08:47 AM - ENN Editor
With summer sun right around the corner, it is important to be prepared and protect our skin from those potentially harmful rays. Whether you use sunscreen or set up an umbrella for shade at the beach, we should be proactive so we don't get sun-burn.
For us, we take precautions, but how do the rest of the animal kingdom fare? How can animal species spend their whole lives outdoors with no apparent concern about high levels of solar exposure?
According to researchers from Oregon State University, animals make their own sunscreen.
The findings, published in the journal eLife, found that many fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds can naturally produce a compound called gadusol, which among other biologic activities provides protection from the ultraviolet, or sun-burning component of sunlight.
The researchers also believe that this ability may have been obtained through some prehistoric, natural genetic engineering.
Vineyard Habitats Attract Butterflies
May 11, 2015 04:35 PM - Scott Weybright, Washington State University
Washington wine grape vineyards experimenting with sustainable pest management systems are seeing an unexpected benefit: an increase in butterflies. Over the years, loss in natural habitat has seen the decline in numbers of around 50 species of butterflies in eastern Washington. But in a recent Washington State University study published in the June issue of the Journal of Insect Conservation, researchers found that vineyards that create nearby natural habitats have three times the number of butterfly species and four times more butterflies than conventional vineyards.