From the Community: forming a biodiversity body and taxing tomatoes

Representatives from around 90 countries approved the formation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Nature and Scientific American collaborated on a survey to analyze the public’s interest in science and the history of the tomato’s taxonomy in the United States is reviewed. Here are some stories in ecology from the second week in June.

Bulldog bats: Scientists from the Free University of Berlin have discovered that bulldog bats use ultrasound to not only navigate and hunt, but to broadcast their identity to strangers as well. This “honking” behavior places bats in the select group of mammals that use ultrasound to communicate – along with whales, dolphins and some squirrels.” Read more at “Bulldog bats ‘honk’ when they meet a stranger.”

Biodiversity’s IPCC: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services—an organization to assess the planet’s resources and services—was approved by close to 90 countries today. It will come before the United Nations’ general assembly in September for official approval and will likely meet for the first time in 2011. Read more at “New UN science body to monitor biosphere.”

Sneezing seals: The blog “Parasite of the Day” featured a particularly odd case from a 1985 issue of The Journal of Parasitology: A single mite of the species Orthohalarachne attenuate—typically found in the nasal passages of seals, sea lions and walruses—was found in a 35-year-old man’s eye. It turns out the man had recently visited Sea World and been sneezed on by a seal, transmitting the mite. Read more at “June 9 – Orthohalarachne attenuate.”

The public and science: Nature and Scientific American are partnering up to take on the challenge of gauging the public’s opinion and trust in science. The international survey, written in 12 languages, is free online and the results will be published in an upcoming issue of Scientific American. Read more at “In Science We Trust?” or take the survey at http://readerpanel.nature.com/wix5/p418322019.aspx.

Tomato taxonomy: Biologically-speaking, the tomato plant is fruit-bearing; however, thanks to the outcome of the 1883 Nix v. Hedden Supreme Court case, tomatoes are legally classified as vegetables in the U.S. Hedden argued that “tomatoes were biologically a fruit, but for the purposes of trade and commerce—that is, the things covered by the Tariff Act of 1883—tomatoes were really vegetables.” Hedden won and the rest is history. Read more at “Are Tomatoes Fruits or Vegetables?”

Also, a look at the International Year of Biodiversity, protected forests and the susceptibility of fire, putting “Oilmageddon 2010” in context and re-evaluating the Endangered Species Act in light of the Gulf disaster.

Author: Katie Kline

Moderator of EcoTone and ESA's communications officer.

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