From the Community: Parasitic wasps, flamingo pigment and spiny anteaters
Altered behavior in caterpillars carrying wasp eggs, preliminary thoughts on the 2010 election results, monitoring climate change from Mount Everest to Baffin Bay, insight into drug-resistant bacteria mutations and origins of the Black Death. Here is the latest in ecological science for the first week in November.
Wasp hosts: The above video, featured on the blog Southern Fried Science for the Biodiversity Wednesday segment, and produced by New Scientist, shows the behavioral changes in caterpillars that are serving as hosts to parasitic wasps. The caterpillar thrashes its body to protect the wasp eggs from potential predators. See the original post at “Biodiversity Wednesday: Zombie caterpillar controlled by wasp.”
2010 Election: Several sites have been covering the 2010 midterm election results and what it means for science and the environment. Andy Coghlan with New Scientist took a state-level look at new policies voted in this election, calling the results a “mixed blessing for science.” Andrew Revkin from The New York Times’ blog Dot Earth encouraged a better public understanding of the importance of energy sources beyond coal and oil. And Mathew Nisbett on Big Think’s blog Age of Engagement lays out “a post-partisan plan to engage the public on climate change.”
Monitoring climate change: This week, Nature News posted two stories on extraordinary ways of collecting data on climate change from the sky and the sea. One story featured the methods used by Angela Marinoni from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate in Bologna, Italy for data collection on aerosols and radiation: She is stationed at the Pyramid Laboratory in the Khumbu Valley on Mount Everest’s south side. Lucas Laursen also reports on data collected by thermometer-wearing narwhals which have shown “the cold water beneath the winter pack ice in Baffin Bay [between Canada and Greenland] is getting warmer.” Information on the narwhal project can also be found on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website as well.
Flamingo make-up: According to a study from the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, and described by Sarah Zielinski from Smithsonian’s Surprising Science blog, flamingos acquire carotenoids from their diet and use these pigments to color their feathers pink for attracting mates. In addition, once the birds have located a mate, they discontinue this practice. Read more at “Pink Flamingoes Attract Mates With Make-Up.”
Resistant bacteria: In a recent Scientific American article, Melinda Wenner Moyer reported on a study by James Collins from Boston University and colleagues who “found that small numbers of drug-resistant bacteria help their vulnerable counterparts survive antibiotic onslaughts, even at a cost to themselves.” In other words, mutated bacteria secreted the molecule indole that benefited the rest of the bacteria population but stunted the growth of the mutated bacteria. Read more at “Nice Germs Finish Last: ‘Good Samaritan’ Bacteria Provide New Clues in Antibiotic Resistance.”
Also, the illegal trade of spiny anteaters, evolution and human obesity, gut bacteria determining the sexual preferences of fruit flies, origins of the Black Death, retelling the life of ancient giant shrimp and rivers link human and environmental health.