Tagged With ecology

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The life of a hermit crab is one of repetition. Find an abandoned snail shell. Live in it. Nom on some flecks of detritus. Grow bigger. Find a slightly bigger shell. Repeat all steps for the rest of your crustacean life. The most onerous part is continually upgrading the shell, a process that can get pretty intensely competitive with other crabs around. However, a newly-discovered species of hermit crab avoids the shell renting game altogether, opting to reside in a living coral, one that grows alongside the crab, meaning no more relocating once the square footage gets a bit tight.

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Floridians were spared the brunt of Hurricane Irma's destructive power last week, when the storm instead took direct aim at some of the most pristine sections of the Everglades. Early reports from scientists suggest that these ecosystems saw serious damage, and could face a long road to recovery.

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Old sailor's tales about the seas being so full of fish you could walk on them, or oysters the size of Frisbees, tend to inspire scepticism today, and for good reason — many people have very little direct experience with the oceans, except for the occasional news article about how we've screwed it up beyond repair. But the oceans of yesteryear really were more plentiful than they are today, and a new analysis of 240 year-old nautical charts hints at just how dramatically things have changed.

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Burying beetles (Nicrophorus) are hard to miss. The insects aren't big, but most species are painted with vibrant, orange blotches on a glossy black background. According to new research, walking around dressed in their Halloween best may have an important function. The coloration may be "aposematic," bright and conspicuous to sternly warn other animals of the wearer's unsuitability as a meal. So, what is it about the burying beetle that makes it noxious to would-be predators?

Anal secretions. That's right, butt juice.

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The American Pika (Ochonta princeps) is one of the few unproblematic faves we have left. These tiny animals roams the mountainous regions of the western United States, doing absolutely nothing wrong. Seriously, all these little floofs do is munch on wildflowers and grass — the images of which are mind-numbingly cute. But because we cannot have a single nice thing ever, the pika is losing a ton of its natural habitat due to global warming.

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A US company has sold nearly five tonnes of genetically-engineered Atlantic salmon fillets in Canada, marking the world's first sale of GM fish for human consumption. Sceptics of the futuristic food are crying foul, citing ecological and health concerns, but government scientists say folks eating the modified fish have nothing to worry about.

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On Monday, the USDA brought us some much needed good news, when it reported data suggesting that honeybees might finally be bouncing back from colony collapse disorder. Today, a team of scientists countered with some seriously bummer pollinator news. A new study published in the journal Nature indicates that artificial light pollution might be a much bigger problem for pollinators — and their plants — than we realised.

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It looks like President Donald Trump might get his stupid wall after all. Last week, the House approved a $US1.6 billion ($2 billion) spending bill that funds the construction of a "contiguous and impassable wall" along the Mexican border, and just yesterday the Department of Homeland security issued an environmental waiver to expedite border construction projects in the San Diego area. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan expressed his support via a tweet and a video, saying, "It is time for The Wall."

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Two hundred and fifty-two million years ago, the Earth was in a really bad place. At the boundary of the Permian and Triassic periods, our biosphere experienced its most dramatic mass extinction event (so far), one so utterly complete that it has been solemnly termed the "Great Dying". Precious little was spared, and it's generally been thought that it took many millions of years for life to stand back up again. But a recently-discovered fossil dating to just after the Great Dying is helping to erode our vision of a slow post-extinction recovery, showing that ecosystems recovered very quickly, were thriving, and were full of teeth. Rows upon rows of razor-edged teeth.

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In the caterpillar-versus-plant fight, the winner might seem obvious. One side sits motionless in the sun, while the other feasts on it. But the tomato plant has a nefarious defence strategy. In some encounters with herbivores, it winds up relatively unscathed, while the caterpillars wind up eating each other.

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Frogs have been around for nearly 200 million years, but it wasn't until a 16km-wide asteroid struck our planet, wiping out three-quarters of all life on Earth — including the dinosaurs — that these crafty amphibians were able to make their big evolutionary move, according to new research.

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We typically think of large predatory animals such as mountain lions as fearless beasts that will stop at nothing to procure a meal — even if that meal consists of human flesh. New research suggests that this view is wrong, and that big cats don't like to bump into us any more than we like to bump into them. The problem is, this fear of humans is altering the feeding behaviour of big carnivores, and that may not be a good thing.