Oxygen levels link to ancient explosion of life

A team of researchers, including a faculty member and postdoctoral fellow from Washington University, found that oxygen levels appear to increase at about the same time as a three-fold increase in biodiversity during the Ordovician Period, between 445 and 485 million years ago, according to a study published Nov. 20 in Nature Geoscience.

Scat-sniffing dog helps save endangered primates

A scat-sniffing dog by the name of Pinkerton may be the best friend ever for a small, highly elusive group of endangered monkey and gibbon species now scrambling for survival in the vanishing forests of a remote Chinese mountain range. The high-energy Belgian Malinois is a critical player in efforts to preserve the black-crested gibbon and the Phayre’s leaf monkey.

The great pond experiment

A seven-year experiment shows that pond communities bear the imprint of random events in their past, such as the order in which species were introduced into the ponds. This finding locates one of the wellsprings of biodiversity but also suggests that it may not be possible to restore ecosystems whose history we cannot recreate.

Plant biodiversity enhanced thanks to spillover from landscape corridors

Landscape in pine plantation forest.Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, along with collaborators at three other universities, have discovered that the biodiversity in a patch of habitat can extend outside the borders of a protected area; this effect is magnified when corridors — skinny strips of land — connect the habitats. Their findings, reported in this week’s online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provide a strategy for managing nature preserves to maximize biodiversity in the small spaces that are already formally protected.

Competition for sex is brutal in biodiversity hotspots

Good pollinators wantedMother Nature could use a few more good pollinators, especially in species-rich biodiversity hotspots, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS online, Jan. 16, 2006). Jana Vamosi, Ph.D, postdoctoral associate at the University of Calgary and Tiffany Knight, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and their collaborators have performed an exhaustive global analysis of more than 1,000 pollination studies which included 166 different plant species and found that, in areas where there is a great deal of plant diversity, plants suffer lower pollination and reproductive success. For some plant species, this reduction in fruit and seed production could push them towards extinction.