“Menopausal” aphids sacrifice themselves for the colony, Gulf oil spill myths debunked, the benefits of (and new considerations for) hiking, bee hives add to sustainable cuisine in San Francisco and the masters of disguise in the animal world—photos included. Here is the latest in ecological science from the third week in June.
Aphid attacks: Female aphids inhabiting witch hazel plants are tasked with reproduction; however, once these aphids mature beyond reproductive capabilities, they take on another role: defenders. In these “menopausal” aphids’ last throes, they defend the colony from ladybird larva by sticking themselves to the predator with a waxy secretion (see above video), permanently securing both the ladybird and themselves to the plant to die. Read more at “Suicidal menopausal aphids save their colony by sticking themselves to predators.”
Oil spill myths: Smithsonian’s Surprising Science blog recaps the five most common misconceptions about the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and sets the record straight. The myths are “oil spills are rare, shallow water drilling is safe, BP/the government/the military can just shut off the oil whenever they want, building barrier islands will protect wetlands [and] the Gulf coast will be better than before.” Read more at “Five Myths of the Gulf Oil Spill.”
Quiet birding: Those hiking through bird habitats for the view should take note of a recent study published in Biotropica. It turns out that the very birds the hikers came to see were scared off by the sound of human voices; animal sightings decreased by as much as 37% in the presence of human voices. The study suggests that hikers should remain completely silent when visiting a bird habitat to avoid causing the birds to change their behavior at the sound of human voices. Read more at “Hiking quietly benefits birds… and birders.”
Oil takes whale: On June 15, crew on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations’ ship Pisces discovered a dead sperm whale floating 77 miles south of the Deepwater Horizon spill site. An estimated 1,600 sperm whales move through waters near the site of the well. Scientific American’s podcast 60-Second Earth reports on the incident in “Will the Oil Spill Kill Sperm Whales?” Listen here.
Other amenities: The hotel Fairmont San Francisco has added “four nascent beehives, each containing approximately 20,000 bees, in the garden outside the hotel lobby. When the beehives mature in four to eight weeks, they are expected to each house up to 50,000 bees.” The garden will soon also include several herbs, such as rosemary and basil. Read more at “Eighty thousand bees check in to San Francisco hotel.”
Also, camouflaged animal photos (from March), H1N1 evolves between humans and pigs, British newspaper apologizes to climate scientist, climate skepticism, aircraft seeding clouds in flight and the future of the whaling ban.