New and Exciting in PLoS Biology

The Scent of the Waggle Dance by Corinna Thom, David C. Gilley, Judith Hooper, and Harald E. Esch:

A honey bee colony consists of many thousands of individuals, all of which help to perform the work that allows their colony to thrive. To coordinate their efforts, honey bees have evolved a complex communication system, no part of which is more sophisticated than the waggle dance. The waggle dance is unique, because it exhibits several properties of true language, through which a forager communicates the location and profitability of a food source to other bees in the darkness of the hive. The information coded in the dance has been extensively researched, but we still do not understand how information is actually transferred from the dancing bee to the receivers of the message. Because information is often transferred by scent in honey bee colonies, we investigated whether waggle dancers produce a scent that distinguishes them from foragers that do not dance. We found that dancers produce four hydrocarbons that distinguish them from nondancing foragers, and that, when blown into the hive, increase foraging activity. These results show that waggle-dancing bees produce a unique scent that affects the behavior of their fellow foragers. We discuss likely meanings of this olfactory message and its potential role in waggle-dance communication.

Conserving Biodiversity Efficiently: What to Do, Where, and When by Kerrie A. Wilson, Emma C. Underwood, Scott A. Morrison, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, William W. Murdoch, Belinda Reyers, Grant Wardell-Johnson, Pablo A. Marquet, Phil W. Rundel, Marissa F. McBride, Robert L. Pressey, Michael Bode, Jon M. Hoekstra, Sandy Andelman, Michael Looker, Carlo Rondinini, Peter Kareiva, M. Rebecca Shaw, and Hugh P. Possingham:

Given limited funds for biodiversity conservation, we need to carefully prioritise where funds are spent. Various schemes have been developed to set priorities for conservation spending among different countries and regions. However, there is no framework for guiding the allocation of funds among alternative conservation actions that address specific threats. Here, we develop such a framework, and apply it to 17 of the world's 39 Mediterranean-climate ecoregions. We discover that one could protect many more plant and vertebrate species by investing in a sequence of conservation actions targeted towards specific threats, such as invasive species control and fire management, rather than by relying solely on acquiring land for protected areas. Applying this new framework will ensure investment in actions that provide the most cost-effective outcomes for biodiversity conservation.

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