Big brains or big guts: Choose one

Big brains or big guts: Choose one

A global study comparing 2,062 birds finds that, in highly variable environments, birds tend to have either larger or smaller brains relative to their body size. New research from Carlos Botero, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, finds birds with smaller brains tend to use ecological strategies that are not available to big-brained counterparts.
Bugged out by climate change

Bugged out by climate change

Warmer summer and fall seasons and fewer winter freeze-thaw events have led to changes in the relative numbers of different types of bugs in the Arctic, says Amanda Koltz, a postdoctoral fellow in Arts & Sciences. The study relies on the longest-standing, most comprehensive data set on arctic arthropods in the world today: a catalogue of almost 600,000 flies, wasps, spiders and other creepy-crawlies collected at the Zackenberg field station on the northeast coast of Greenland from 1996-2014.
New life for endangered coastal lupine

New life for endangered coastal lupine

A rare, coastal flowering plant known as Tidestrom’s lupine — threatened by native deer mice that can munch up to three-quarters of its unripe fruits under cover of an invasive beachgrass — has been given a new life with the large-scale removal of that grass, a long-term study in the journal Restoration Ecology shows.
Endangered tortoises thrive on invasive plants

Endangered tortoises thrive on invasive plants

Introduced plants make up roughly half the diet of two subspecies of endangered tortoise, field research in the Galapagos reveals. Tortoises  seem to prefer non-native to native plants and the plants may help them to stay well-nourished during the dry season.

Gut microbes in healthy kids carry antibiotic resistance genes

Friendly microbes in the intestinal tracts of healthy American children have numerous antibiotic resistance genes, according to results of a pilot study by scientists at the School of Medicine. The genes are cause for concern because they can be shared with harmful microbes, interfering with the effectiveness of antibiotics in ways that can contribute to serious illness and, in some cases, death. Pictured is the study’s senior author, Gautum Dantas, PhD.

Walking in the footsteps of 19th- and 20th-century naturalists, scientists find battered plant-pollinator network

Two biologists at Washington University in St. Louis were delighted to discover a meticulous dataset on a plant-pollinator network recorded by Illinois naturalist Charles Robertson between 1884 and 1916. Re-collecting part of Robertson’s network, they learned that although the network has compensated for some losses, battered by climate change and habitat loss it is now weaker and less resilient than in Robertson’s time.

Study extends the ‘ecology of fear’ to fear of parasites

Work at Washington University in St. Louis, just published in EcoHealth, shows that the ecology of fear, like other concepts from predator-prey theory, also extends to parasites. Raccoons and squirrels would give up food, the study demonstrated, if the area was infested with larval ticks. At some level, they are weighing the value of the abandoned food against the risk of being parasitized.

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.
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