A battle of the sexes: Hummingbird competition and evolution

The intersection of evolution and ecology has risen to become a prominent subfield in both disciplines in recent years, with scientists exploring more and more how interactions among organisms can shape evolution at the population and even species level.  In the May issue of the journal Ecology, Ethan Temeles of Amherst College explores a fascinating relationship between the males and females of one species of hummingbird.  The long,...

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Climate change, heat stress, and animal evolution

Climate change has the potential to not only increase average temperatures around the world, but also to increase the likelihood and severity of now-rare temperature events, like heat waves.  The fate of many animal populations, therefore, can hinge on their ability to tolerate (relative) extreme heat. In the April issue of Functional Ecology, scientists explore the possible responses of animal populations to a changing climate. Mike...

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Sunbathing: good for your bones (if you’re a lizard)

Cold-blooded animals don’t produce their own heat, and thus they must sunbathe, basking in the sun’s rays to raise their body temperatures so they have eonugh energy to  go about their business. But for some ectotherms, the sun isn’t just a source of heat.  A new study shows that in the panther chameleon, native to Madagascar, basking behavior also controls production of essential vitamin D. In reptiles, vitamin D3...

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Evolution and ecosystem engineers

Evolutionary biologists agree that the natural environment shapes the evolution of life. A study published in Nature today, however, finds that the evolution of a species can also have big impacts on the surrounding environment. Threespine stickleback are famous as an example of rapid, adaptive radiation. These small freshwater fish have evolved in the lakes of British Columbia to have very different lifestyles.  In large lakes, there...

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SICB: ‘No thanks, New Orleans’

The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology announced this week in a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal that the society would not hold future scientific meetings in Louisiana in response to the recent passage by the state legislature of the Louisiana “Science Education Act.” The letter was first reported Monday in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has also drawn coverage in The New York Times and at Discover.com. Passed...

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Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

Today we mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the most influential thinker in biology, Charles Darwin, renowned as the founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Publications worldwide have commemorated the day by publishing news articles on Darwin’s life and work and the current state of affairs in evolutionary theory.  Here’s a selection of impressive ones. Darwin Speaks, Scientific American. An...

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How fence lizards got their shimmy

Eastern Fence Lizards are rampant across the American southeast but, in recent years, they’ve begun to coexist with invasive red fire ants from South America. Because the lizards and the ants have similar requirements (terrestrial areas with abundant sunlight), they often find themselves occupying the same space. And the ants don’t like it. Tracy Langkilde of Penn State University studies the interactions of these territorial animals...

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To fly or not to fly?

Evolution can do funny things. Like producing the amazing feat of flight in a lineage of reptiles, which over time led to an adaptive radiation seldom rivaled in the history of animals. And then producing, in some 30 species of birds, the loss of the adaptation altogether. It would seem a ridiculous thing to do, to give up the power of flight, when you can fly. Certainly, if I could fly, I wouldn’t bother giving it up. That’s Rory...

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