The tiny, diligent gardeners of the Amazon

The gardeners described here are not concerned with trimmed topiaries or manicured lawns—though, like designers of landscape gardens, these workers are exceptionally picky. And they have to be if they are going to survive. That is, ants such as Myrmelachista schumanni and Camponotus femoratus of South America depend on certain plants for shelter, and in return, they offer these plants nutrients and protection from predators. As a...

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Army ants, beard microbes and ant-mimicking jumping spiders

Army ant week: Biologist and photographer Alex Wild reported on army ants all last week  in a series of posts on his blog Myrmecos. In one post, he described how army ants link with one another using hooks on their feet: “When the time comes to encamp, they can string together living curtains of ants in a matter of minutes. Army ant bivouacs are made from the ants themselves, a vibrant structure that protects the vulnerable brood and...

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Those gibbons sure can wail

Birds are not the only animals that communicate by singing—gibbons, apes more closely resembling monkeys in size, sing to strengthen social relationships, announce their territory and find a mate. Crested gibbons in the genus Nomascus live in the Asian rain forests of China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and sing for a specific purpose. “The songs are specifically adapted to travel over long distances through the dense vegetation of the...

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EcoTone sheds its exoskeleton

Frequent visitors to EcoTone might notice a few changes to the look and layout of the blog.  Instead of one long list of posts, for example, the most recent posts are now presented with a photo and brief summary. That way, all of the news in ecology is together on one page for easy browsing. Sharing links with friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter is also simpler thanks to new social media buttons. Over the last few...

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Fear as an ecosystem engineer

This post contributed by Cristina Eisenberg, conservation biologist at Oregon State University Over the past three years I have conducted thirteen hundred focal animal observations on elk in the northern and southern Rocky Mountains. This involves patiently watching one animal at a time for up to twenty minutes and recording its wariness–that is, the amount of time it spends with its head down feeding versus head up, scanning...

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