South America’s short-faced fruit bats are the descendants of “reverse colonists.”
When it comes to colonizing new habitats, island species tend to get the short end of the stick. Typically, organisms from the mainland invade an island and take over—pushing the natives to near extinction. But sometimes, colonization can go the other way. In a rare case of “reverse colonization,” researchers in Brazil found that the short-faced bats now living in South America originally arrived from nearby Caribbean islands. Read more in Hakai.
Pythons may be setting off a cascade of ecosystem changes.
The huge Burmese pythons that are slowly taking over Florida’s Everglades wetlands are a threat to the mammals that live there. But new research shows the pythons’ influence extends far beyond their own appetites: the snakes are setting off cascading changes to the ecosystem. Read more in Hakai Magazine.
Wolves may be better at sharing their meals with bears than we thought.
Biologists have long assumed that when wolves and brown bears share territory, the wolves are forced to kill more often to make up for the food stolen by scavenging bears.
But when Aimee Tallian, a biologist at Utah State University, and her colleagues looked for evidence of this, they found the opposite. Where wolves live alongside bears in Scandinavia and Yellowstone National Park in the US, they actually kill less often. Read more in New Scientist.
For decades a deadly fungus has been slaughtering amphibians around the world, driving many to the brink of extinction or even beyond.
But now one frog’s recovery shows that, with a little luck and habitat preservation, some amphibians may be able to evolve resistance to the fungus. Read more in New Scientist.
Ecologists fear plan to seal off the United States from Mexico would put wildlife at risk.
With Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talking about walling off the United States from Mexico, ecologists fear for the future of the delicate and surprisingly diverse ecosystems that span Mexico’s border with the southwestern United States.
“The southwestern US and northwestern Mexico share their weather, rivers and wildlife,” says Sergio Avila-Villegas, a conservation scientist from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. “The infrastructure on the border cuts through all that and divides a shared landscape in two.” Read more in Nature.
Baby sea turtles work together to dig their way out of sandy nests, and the more of them there are, the less energy they use doing it.
We knew of this group-digging behaviour, called social facilitation, for a long time, but the reasons for teamwork were unclear. Possible explanations included speeding up nest escape or helping the turtles emerge together to swamp awaiting predators on the beach. Read more in New Scientist.
The pygmy bushtit’s diminutive size makes it a superlative species, and it has a genus all to itself. But now genetics is showing that it’s not so special after all.
The pygmy bushtit isn’t much to look at. It’s an inconspicuous dull grey, but it is absolutely tiny. So small in fact, that it is the smallest member of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, an order that encompasses more than half of all bird species including sparrows, finches and chickadees. Read more in New Scientist.
Call it the wood wide web. Although we think of trees as competing with each other for resources, we know from lab studies that they share information and nutrients underground.Trees of the same species growing close together will sometimes fuse their roots and exchange materials. And seedlings of different species can share nutrients via mycorrhiza, the symbiotic fungi that grow alongside and between tree roots.
Now botanist Tamir Klein and his colleagues at the University of Basel in Switzerland have spotted this transfer in mature wild trees for the first time. And it turns out they share much more than anyone guessed. Read more in New Scientist.
Deep in the ice caves of the Shawangunk Ridge in New York state lives a tiny crustacean with unique abilities.
Despite being eyeless, it can still detect some wavelengths of visible light. And it has no problem with being frozen solid during the frigid winters. Read more in New Scientist.
There are more than twice as many orangutans on the Indonesian island of Sumatra as we thought, according to a new survey. But deforestation and development could still see their numbers plummet over the next decade.
A team led by Serge Wich, a primatologist at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, scoured the Sumatran forest and found evidence that there were more than 14,600 apes living there, more than double the previous estimate of 6600. Read more in New Scientist.