University of Central Florida doctoral student Jennifer Fewster is studying giraffe excrement at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in Lake Buena Vista in an effort to figure out what the animals eat in the wild and to improve the nutrition of those in captivity.
Fewster's research, conducted in January and February, could potentially help conserve a wide array of herbivores, including endangered ones.
"I find it fascinating, but I forget people find it odd," Fewster said. "It's not the most glamorous work. In fact, it can be a bit boring at times, but the goal is worthwhile and it has applications for the wild and for the better care and nutrition of animals in captivity."
Why are males larger than females in some animal species (such as most mammals), females larger than males in others (such as most insects), and why are the sexes alike in yet other species (such as several birds)? Further, how is such sexual size dimorphism achieved when it exists? If males and females grow at the same rate, then the larger sex has to extend its growth period. Alternatively, the larger sex can grow faster.
A group of 13 researchers from 10 countries investigated the latter questions using comparative data on 155 species of insects and spiders (arthropods) from 7 major groups. The results, published in the February issue of The American Naturalist, suggest that, generally, growth rate differences between the sexes are more important than growth period differences in mediating size dimorphism in arthropods. Nevertheless, depending on the species group, males and females tend to have equal growth periods (beetles and water striders), males have longer growth periods than females (two groups of flies), or males have shorter growth periods than females (so-called protandry), albeit not quite in proportion to the size difference between the sexes (spiders, butterflies, and Hymenoptera, i.e. bees, ants, wasps, and alike).
University of Nevada, Reno researcher Matthew Forister is among a group of scientists that have documented an unusual type of speciation in the Sierra Nevada, including a hybrid species of butterfly that can trace its lineage as far back as almost a half a million years ago. In a recently published article in the leading research journal Science, the discovery is one of the most convincing cases of this type of species formation that has ever been demonstrated in animals.
How many genes influence a complex trait, like weight, height or body type? And why does the answer matter?
He and senior author Dennis Hedgecock linked growth rate in oysters to approximately 350 genes, or 1.5 percent of the more than 20,000 genes in the oyster genome. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first estimate of the number of genes that determine growth rate in any animal.
New research suggests that choosing a mate may be partially determined by your genes. A study published in Psychological Science has found a link between a set of genes involved with immune function and partner selection in humans. Vertebrate species and humans are inclined to prefer mates who have dissimilar MHC (major histocompatibility complex) genotypes, rather than similar ones. This preference may help avoid inbreeding between partners, as well as strengthen the immune systems of their offspring through exposure to a wider variety of pathogens.
Can you judge a man's faithfulness by his face? How about whether he would be a good father, or a good provider? Many people believe they can, according to a University of Michigan study published in the December issue of Personal Relationships, a peer-reviewed academic journal.
Walking while holding a conversation and writing a letter whilst thinking about its content: we perform many actions without even thinking about them. This is possible due to the cerebellum. It regulates the automation of our movements and as a result the cerebrum can perform other tasks. However, how the cerebellum performs this task is not clear. Dutch researcher Angelique Pijpers reconstructed a part of cerebellar functioning in rats and investigated how it mediates in the control of hind limb muscles. Such research might in future provide a better understanding of how the elderly move.