A rare jellyfish is captured on video as it swims in the Gulf of Mexico, New Scientist outlines ideas in ecology that could change the world, researchers examine a wine-scented flower and its pollinators, the top 20 microscope photos of the year and putting a price on Earth. Here are the latest stories in ecology.
Mega jellyfish: A video of the giant jellyfish Stygiomedusa gigantean (see above)—which was caught on film in the Gulf of Mexico in April and featured on Discovery News—has been recycling on the internet the last couple of weeks. Mark Benfield from Louisiana State University explains the current information on the species. See the original video at “Rare Monster Jellyfish Caught on Tape.”
Ideas in ecology: New Scientist’s latest “50 ideas to change science forever” series focused on ecology this week, focusing mainly on evolution. The topics included biogenic climate change, lateral gene transfer and financial ecology. As Ford Doolittle from the University of Halifax, Nova Scotia explained of “metagenomics” in the article: “We now recognize that understanding the processes of evolution in no way depends on this tree-[framework style of] thinking…[that suggests species come from one common ancestor]…The upshot will be a sharper insight into the relationships of the tangled web of life.” Read more at “50 Ideas to change science: Ecology.”
Cultural evolution: In a recent study in Nature, anthropologists Ruth Mace and Thomas Currie from the University College, London looked to biology to gain insight into the evolution of culture. The researchers explained in a Wired Science article, “Political evolution, like biological evolution, tends to proceed through small steps rather than through big jumps in ‘design space.’” In other words, the researchers found that culture evolves slowly but disintegrates rapidly. Read more at “Culture Evolves Slowly, Falls Apart Quickly.”
Wine-scented flowers: The genus of arum lilies are known—or perhaps infamous—for attracting pollinators such as flies with the scent of urine, dung and rotting meat. Within this group, Solomon’s lily uses a similar mechanism but with a different odor—a scent reminiscent of wine. As Ed Yong explained in a Not Exactly Rocket Science article, “…this fragrance, like the fouler ones of other arum lilies, is also a trick. Solomon’s lily uses it to draw in flies that eat decaying fruit.” Read more at “Wine-scented flower draws in fruit flies with yeasty tones.”
Determining sex: Tiny freshwater creatures called rotifers can reproduce sexually or asexually, depending on food availability within a habitat, found Lutz Beck from the University of Toronto and colleagues. As Sindya Bhanoo wrote in a New York Times article, “In the mixed environment, asexual females were more likely to produce sexually reproducing female offspring. In the two homogenous regions, females tended to produce asexual females—carbon copies of themselves.” Read more at “When Procreation is a Matter of Real Estate.”
Also, top 20 microscope photos of the year, putting a price on planet Earth, environmental turmoil in Pakistan, the epic 10,000 kilometer voyage of a humpback whale, bacteria outfitted with nanowires conduct electricity and evidence shows that the basis for life on Earth may have originated in the sky.