This is an important summer for kori bustards at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Four chicks of this threatened African bird have hatched in June and July. Along with the bumper crop of baby birds is a bumper crop of new information for scientists working to preserve the species, thanks to an electronic egg that transmits real-time incubation data from the nest.
Phenotypic flexibility enables multicellular organisms to adjust morphologies to variable environmental challenges. Such plastic variations are also documented in reef corals. Coral colonies are made of multiple genetically identical physiologically integrated modules (polyps).
The abundant diversity of characteristics within species likely helped fuel the proliferation and evolution of an odd-looking creature that emerged from an unprecedented explosion of life on Earth more than 500 million years ago. University of Chicago paleontologist Mark Webster reports this finding in the July 27 issue of the journal Science.
The luscious aroma of flowers attracts lovers, and the biological role of that smell is similar: to attract pollinators. “Plants need to attract insects, bats and hummingbirds to transfer the pollen and create fertile seeds,” says Hugh Iltis, professor emeritus of botany at UW-Madison.
A 30-year scientific debate over how specialized cells in the inner ear amplify sound in mammals appears to have been settled more in favor of bouncing cell bodies rather than vibrating, hair-like cilia, according to investigators at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The days of soybean aphids feasting on soybean fields may be numbered, thanks to a unique import from China. University of Minnesota scientists are field testing a beneficial insect, a stingless wasp from China also known as Binodoxys communis, that kills soybean aphids. A successful field test would be a major breakthrough in controlling a damaging crop pest. The U of M received permission from the federal government to conduct this test and is the leading institution in the testing.
In the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, a team of researchers has discovered a novel bacterium that transforms light into chemical energy. The researchers also discovered that the new genus and species belongs to a new phylum, Acidobacteria — only the third time in the past 100 years that a new bacterial phylum has been added to the list of those with chlorophyll-producing members, of which there are now only six.
Over the last five years, large, predatory Humboldt squid have moved north from equatorial waters and invaded the sea off Central California, where they may be decimating populations of Pacific hake, an important commercial fish.