Buffo the truffle-hunting dog, night-blooming balsa trees and fire-ant-made rafts

Truffle shuffle: According to a letter published in the April issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Buffo the truffle-hunting dog made an unusual find: a one-pound Burgundy truffle in the forests of southern Germany in November. As lead author Ulf Büntgen said in a recent Wired Science article, “This wasn’t a small find, but a big and expensive truffle with lots of smaller ones around. It was strange to find it in an area...

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Fire ant decapitating flies take hold in Florida,
one head at a time

It’s been roughly 80 years since the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) arrived from South America to Mobile, Alabama in soil used as ballast to weigh down boats. Needless to say, fire ants have adapted well in southern states like Texas, Louisiana and Florida, disrupting native wildlife and plants and causing problems for people ranging from shorting out street lights to stinging limbs.

But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, scientists brought over several strains of parasitoid flies from Argentina in an attempt to naturally eradicate the fire ants. A scientist recently found that one particular fly strain may be able to completely wipe out fire ants in northern Florida.

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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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