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59 posts tagged ecology

9th January, 2014

Evidently bats understand just how important foreplay is when it comes to worthwhile sex.
Male flying foxes have been observed grooming their genital organ prior to mating attempts, leading to arousal. They will then approach a female who will give something of a chase, backing away for approximately a minute. The female will then stop and allow the male to perform cunnilingus before mounting her. After copulation is through, the actions of the male depend on which species of bat you’re observing. Some will resume cunnilingus, while others will groom their own genitals once more. The current theory is that oral sex is important for competition, as it can clean the genitals of a previous mate’s sperm, and it also leads to longer sex.
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Evidently bats understand just how important foreplay is when it comes to worthwhile sex.

Male flying foxes have been observed grooming their genital organ prior to mating attempts, leading to arousal. They will then approach a female who will give something of a chase, backing away for approximately a minute. The female will then stop and allow the male to perform cunnilingus before mounting her. After copulation is through, the actions of the male depend on which species of bat you’re observing. Some will resume cunnilingus, while others will groom their own genitals once more. The current theory is that oral sex is important for competition, as it can clean the genitals of a previous mate’s sperm, and it also leads to longer sex.

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29th December, 2013

2013 saw a veritable baby boom in the captive panda population, with 49 new cubs being born this year, 42 of them surviving. These numbers indicate that captive breeding programs are working, and now researchers have more information to work with. 
Not only have new insights as to how to keep panda cubs alive in captivity come to light, but researchers can now focus on maintaining a high level of genetic diversity that will hopefully lead to hardier animals being introduced to the wild and an increase in population in the panda’s natural habitat. 
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2013 saw a veritable baby boom in the captive panda population, with 49 new cubs being born this year, 42 of them surviving. These numbers indicate that captive breeding programs are working, and now researchers have more information to work with. 

Not only have new insights as to how to keep panda cubs alive in captivity come to light, but researchers can now focus on maintaining a high level of genetic diversity that will hopefully lead to hardier animals being introduced to the wild and an increase in population in the panda’s natural habitat. 

Continue Reading

22nd April, 2013

An indicator species is an organism whose presence, absence or abundance reflects a specific environmental condition.  Indicator species can signal a change in the biological condition of a particular ecosystem, and thus may be used as a proxy to diagnose the health of an ecosystem.  For example, plants or lichens sensitive to heavy metals or acids in precipitation may be indicators of air pollution.  Indicator species can also reflect a unique set of environmental qualities or characteristics found in a specific place, such as a unique microclimate.  

Above: Burrowing Mayfly, a clean water indicator species. Since they are very sensitive to pollution, their presence is indicative of clean water. 

(Source: eoearth.org)

22nd April, 2013

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Since their introduction to the Atlantic Ocean in the 1980s, Pacific red lionfish (Pterois volitans) have gobbled up native Caribbean and western Atlantic reef fishes, reducing their abundance by up to 90%. Researchers think one of the secrets to the lionfish’s success is a predation strategy unheard of in other fish predators—blowing jets of water while approaching prey to disorient them. The squirting water (seen in the video) overwhelms the target’s lateral line, part of a fish’s nervous system that detects vibrations and warns of approaching objects, the team reports this week in Marine Ecology Progress Series. Prey often end up facing the hungry lionfish, increasing the chances of head-first strikes and lowering the risk of the lionfish getting stuck by backwards-facing spines.

You can watch a video of the phenomena by clicking the source (wouldn’t let me embed). 

(Source: news.sciencemag.org)

22nd April, 2013

When It Comes To Survival Of The Fittest, Stress Is A Good Thing

In a study led by Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Guelph (Canada), researchers showed for the first time how females use social cues to correctly prepare their offspring for life outside the nest. The results, published in the current issue of Science, confirm that red squirrel mothers boosted stress hormone production during pregnancy, which increased the size and the chances of survival of their pups.

"Natural selection favors faster-growing offspring, and female red squirrels react accordingly to increase their pups’ chances of survival," said Ben Dantzer, formerly with MSU’s zoology department and now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom). "Surprisingly, squirrels could produce these faster growing offspring even though they didn’t have access to additional food resources."

22nd April, 2013

Types of Symbiosis

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Symbiosis is the close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species.

  • Mutualism: any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals benefit.
  • Endosymbiosis: any symbiotic relationship in which one symbiont lives within the tissues of the other, either within the cells or extracellularly.
  • Commensalism: a relationship between two living organisms where one benefits and the other is not significantly harmed or helped.
  • Parasitism: a relationship in which one member of the association benefits while the other is harmed.
  • Amensalism: the type of relationship that exists where one species is inhibited or completely obliterated and one is unaffected.
  • Synnecrosis: a rare type of symbiosis in which the interaction between species is detrimental to both organisms involved.

Above: In a symbiotic mutualistic relationship, the clownfish feeds on small invertebrates that otherwise have potential to harm the sea anemone, and the fecal matter from the clownfish provides nutrients to the sea anemone. The clownfish is additionally protected from predators by the anemone’s stinging cells, to which the clownfish is immune.

22nd April, 2013

Scientists Use DNA to Quickly Unravel Relationship Between Plants and Insects

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Studying the relationship between plants and the insects that feed on them is an arduous task, as it must be done through direct observation. It can take years for a researcher to fully understand the diets of a community of herbivorous insects in a tropical rain forest. Now, five Smithsonian scientists are paving a fast track using the DNA found inside the insects’ stomachs, potentially turning years of research into months. This method will help scientists understand the ecology and evolution of plant-herbivore interactions more efficiently.

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22nd April, 2013

A Quick Introduction

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The term “ecology” was coined by the German zoologist, Ernst Haeckel, in 1866 to describe the “economies” of living forms. The theoretical practice of ecology consists, by and large, of the construction of models of the interaction of living systems with their environment (including other living systems). These models are then tested in the laboratory and the field. (Field-work in ecology also consists of data collection that need not be inspired by any theory.)

6th March, 2013

A huddle of starfish adds a splash of color to the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington State. The Sanctuary protects 2,408 square nautical miles off the coast, the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Living in this protected area are organisms ranging from microscopic plankton to sea otters to albatross to migrating gray whales. It’s a high-nutrient environment, which is why intertidal species like these starfish thrive.

A huddle of starfish adds a splash of color to the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington State. The Sanctuary protects 2,408 square nautical miles off the coast, the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Living in this protected area are organisms ranging from microscopic plankton to sea otters to albatross to migrating gray whales. It’s a high-nutrient environment, which is why intertidal species like these starfish thrive.

22nd December, 2012

science-junkie:

Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction
The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.
Until now, it was always assumed that it took flora and fauna a long time to recover from the vast mass extinction at the end of the Permian geological period 252 million years ago. According to the scientific consensus, complex ecological communities only began to reappear in the Middle Triassic, so 247 million years ago. Now, however, a Swiss team headed by paleontologist Hugo Bucher from the University of Zurich reveals that marine animal groups such as ammonoids and conodonts (microfossils) already peaked three or four million years earlier, namely still during the Early Triassic.
The scientists chart the temperature curves in detail in Nature Geoscience, demonstrating that the climate and the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere fluctuated greatly during the Early Triassic and what impact this had on marine biodiversity and terrestrial plants.
Read more.
science-junkie:

Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction
The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.
Until now, it was always assumed that it took flora and fauna a long time to recover from the vast mass extinction at the end of the Permian geological period 252 million years ago. According to the scientific consensus, complex ecological communities only began to reappear in the Middle Triassic, so 247 million years ago. Now, however, a Swiss team headed by paleontologist Hugo Bucher from the University of Zurich reveals that marine animal groups such as ammonoids and conodonts (microfossils) already peaked three or four million years earlier, namely still during the Early Triassic.
The scientists chart the temperature curves in detail in Nature Geoscience, demonstrating that the climate and the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere fluctuated greatly during the Early Triassic and what impact this had on marine biodiversity and terrestrial plants.
Read more.

science-junkie:

Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction

The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.

Until now, it was always assumed that it took flora and fauna a long time to recover from the vast mass extinction at the end of the Permian geological period 252 million years ago. According to the scientific consensus, complex ecological communities only began to reappear in the Middle Triassic, so 247 million years ago. Now, however, a Swiss team headed by paleontologist Hugo Bucher from the University of Zurich reveals that marine animal groups such as ammonoids and conodonts (microfossils) already peaked three or four million years earlier, namely still during the Early Triassic.

The scientists chart the temperature curves in detail in Nature Geoscience, demonstrating that the climate and the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere fluctuated greatly during the Early Triassic and what impact this had on marine biodiversity and terrestrial plants.

Read more.

(via Science Junkie)