Bees May Speak a Lingua Franca When It Comes to Food.
An experiment done by researchers at Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences in London suggests that bumblebees can learn to find food from interpreting the signals of their rivals, the honeybees. Indeed, just as humans learn from their competition, bumblebees gather information from honeybees and find the best location for flowers upon which to feed. One of the researchers commented: “If bumblebees use individual exploration and copying of their fellow bumblebees to identify rewarding plants, but also use the information provided by a rival species (ie honeybees), this could have important ecological implications for community structure and formation, and may help us better understand the impact of competition within natural pollinator communities.”
Read more at Red Orbit.
Solar Cues for Plant Defense.
Plants are closely tied to circadian rhythms — some plants open their leave at dawn or move their leaves in anticipation of it. A new experiment, however, shows that plants also time the secretion of insecticide chemicals to coincide with the daytime arrival of insect predators. In this experiment, a number of plants called Arabidopsis thaliana were divided into two groups: on one group insect predators called cabbage loopers that were accustomed to a normal day/night cycle were unleashed. The other group was introduced to the same type of insect that had been behaviorally adapted to the reverse normal day/night cycle. The result was that the plants could defend themselves against the normal insects, but were relatively helpless against the behaviorally modified ones. Scientists believe that plants rely upon their genetic chemistry of their circadian clocks to produce timely insecticides at just the right time of day.
Read more at Science Daily.
Antarctic Fish Endangered By Climate Change.
Because they so successfully adapted to the cold waters of Antarctica when the earth entered into a cooling period millions of years ago, scientists fear that the fish of the Antarctic region will be badly affected by warming global temperatures. These types of fish, called notothenioids, have developed a form of antifreeze in their bodies that allows them to withstand the extremely cold water of the region. Unfortunately, the sea water around Antarctica is one of the fastest warming in the world. The consequences of warmer ocean temperatures may be devastating for notothenioids.
Read more at Red Orbit.
Bizarre Animal Facts.
Two humorous and informative videos on Huff Post Green test your knowledge of animals. Getting a perfect score is not easy.
Do Prions Point the Way to a Third Form of Evolution?
We have known for a long time that DNA can produce mutations that lead to changes in an organism, both beneficial and malignant. Recently, the science of epigenetics has shown that certain molecules can change how DNA operates by simply clamping onto a portion of the DNA molecule. This causes organism changes that do not require a change in DNA itself. Now, scientists studying yeast may have discovered a third mechanism for evolutionary change. Prions, those misshapen proteins that cause mad cow and other such diseases, are produced by yeast cells through a purely chemical trick that prevents its DNA from being read in the normal manner. The result is a “hodgepodge” of unique prion proteins. Some of these prions might be beneficial and can thereafter physically be passed on through mating to new generations of yeast, all without any DNA alterations.
Read more at New Scientist.
Seeing Eye To Eye With Cuttlefish.
We have all seen rudimentary sketches that contain little more than an outline, but which we are instantly able to perceive as an actual image of something familiar. Human vision has evolved to complete the missing portions in order to quickly make sense of partial information. It turns out cuttlefish can do the same thing. Cuttlefish are able to instantly change their exterior to form a camouflage that can match any pattern or texture on the ocean floor. In an experiment, cuttlefish were presented with a pattern that resembled a broken circle. Just as a human would do, they responded to this partial information and chose a camouflage that matched a full circle.
Read more at Discovery.
Gorillas in Need of Vaccinations.
It is thought that AIDS was spread to humans in Africa from human consumption of primate meat. It turns out that humans now are causing devastating diseases in the gorilla population. It is estimated that a third of the gorilla population has already succumbed to the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. The problem has been aggravated by increased tourism and an absence of standards for protecting the gorillas from tourists. One expert explained that: “we need to be much more proactive about instituting strict hygiene precautions at all ape tourism and research sites.” While hygienic standards are one form of protection, vaccination of gorillas may be another, more aggressive and possible more effective one. To accomplish that end, additional funding will have to be raised by gorilla conservation groups.
Read more at Discovery.
Think Your Chili Is Hot – Think Again.
Scientists at the New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute have bestowed the honor of the world’s hottest pepper on the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper. The chemical that brings the heat is so strong in these peppers that employees who picked them went through several pairs of latex gloves.
Read more at CBS News.
From 9/11, Clues on Ocean Noise.
Rosalind Rolland of the New England Aquarium in Boston was measuring the stress levels in right whales in Canada’s Bay of Fundy in 2001. When analyzing the results, an unusual drop in stress levels was noted for the period right after the September 11th attacks. She knew that for a period of time following the attacks, ocean shipping was halted or slowed worldwide. The possible conclusion drawn by Rolland is that the slowing of ocean traffic reduced the noise experienced by whales. The reduction in noise-related stress, she reasoned, might have been directly related to this period of quiescence. Whether or not these observations can be duplicated and corroborated remains to be seen.
Read more at Science News.
Icelandic River Monster Debunked.
A video that viewers claimed to have captured a swimming monster in an Icelandic lake had over 3 million views on You Tube. However, thanks to a sharp-eyed observer who closely analyzed the video, the Icelandic lake with the tongue-twisting name, Lagarfljótsormurinn, is safe once again. Miisa McKeown, who lives in Finland and knows a thing or two about icy lakes, saw something suspicious in the video. After slowing down the speed and taking screen captures, she realized that what had been videotaped was nothing more than river water flowing over a stationary submerged object. Apparently, the photographer had inadvertently picked just the right spot for the optical illusion – the crowd effect of You Tube provided the undeserved sensationalism.
More at Discovery.
“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.
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