Flowers make it rain (and then some)

The Amazon rainforest—with its millions of creaking, chirping and buzzing insects, sticky frogs, vibrant birds, and unique fish—may owe its diversity primarily to flowers, said researchers from the University of Chicago. And, they say, just as flowering plants formed the building block of biodiversity in this region, their removal could result in a cascade of declining diversity. According to authors Kevin Boyce and Jung-Eun Lee of a...

Read More

The sharp shooters of marine life

The archerfish’s long distance spitting can fire a bug off of a branch and send it down to the water’s surface, and the nearly-blind pistol shrimp uses its gigantic claw to stun its prey with a bubble nearly as hot as the Sun. However, if the archerfish didn’t have keen eyes enabling it to detect an insect against a vegetative background, and if the pistol shrimp lacked its  protective eye covers, called orbital hoods, these animals...

Read More

The phrenologist’s guide to ecological competence

Since Darwin, scientists have been theorizing as to why there is variation in brain size between species and individuals. Does a larger brain, in say humans, indicate advanced cognitive abilities and complex language processing? Or is a smaller brain, such as the Olive-backed thrush’s, adapted to weigh less to accommodate lengthy flights?   In psychology, the field of phrenology has generally been dissolved, and with it, the idea that...

Read More

Antbird songs converge while other traits don’t

Convergent evolution of large functional traits is not uncommon in nature; consider that wings have evolved in several lineages of animals to broaden niches that animals can fill.  But more specific convergence, especially in sexual and territorial signals, is rare at best and stirs controversy in the scientific world. On the surface, it would seem that if two species converge in their signals, it would lead to crossbreeding and...

Read More

Fungi turn ants into zombies. (need I say more?)

A stroma, or spore-releasing body, of a killer fungus grows out of the head of a victim ant. Image courtesy David Hughes and with thanks to Science News. As much as Hollywood might want you to think they exist, zombies are fictitious. But a study out today claims that actually, they kind of do exist — if your undead is an ant and your possessive reviving sorcerer a deadly and clever species of fungus. Imagine you’re a...

Read More