Low oil concentrations impact Gulf fish, Jellyfishes’ rising ecosystem status and the importance of bees

Miniscule oil amounts, major biological ramifications for fish: Trace amounts of oil from a spill can have harmful and lasting biological effects, according to Andrew Whitehead, a biologist with the Louisiana State University (LSU). Whitehead, along with Fernando Galvez (also an LSU biologist), led a study examining the biological effects of low concentrations of oil on fish in the Gulf of Mexico.  Their research has previously shown that exposure to certain elements found in crude oil can cause harmful gene expression changes in killifish. Killifish are an important food source for many species, including economically important ones such as red snapper. The researchers found comparable changes in gene expression in killifish from the marshes, and in killifish embryos exposed to contaminated water samples in the lab. These changes have been shown to cause developmental abnormalities, decreased embryo survival and lower reproductive success. The findings were published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study was funded by a National Science Foundation rapid response grant. Read the full article at Nature News. Jellyfish drifts its way to predatory dominance: In certain ocean waters, climate change, overfishing and expanding dead zones have paved the way for the ascent of a nontraditional predator: jellyfish. Biologist José Luis Acuña of the University of Oviedo in Spain and fellow researchers note that while fish use their eyes and swimming maneuverability to catch fish, jellyfish, which slowly drift through the water, consume just as much prey, when their large body masses are taken into account. The researchers found that when measured by the amount of carbon in their bodies, rather than their total weight, jellyfish consume and incorporate as much prey as do fish. Read more at Jellyfishes Shown to Be Effective Predators USDA’s bee basics: They’re an American fixture and the state insect of 17 states, but the honeybee, like most Americans, has immigrant roots. Honeybee species were brought to America via European settlers, beginning in the 1600s.  A new publication from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expands upon many interesting facts about bees, including honeybees and native species, such as the carpenter bee and bumble bee. According to USDA, there are over 4,000 species of native bees in the United States. Native bees provide an important economic resource in that they pollinate 75 percent of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the United States. Their interaction with other plant and animal wildlife makes them a vital part of our ecosystem. The USDA publication expands upon these and other interesting facts about bees, including ways to help sustain their prevalence. Also, USGS research on climate change in...

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Living video games, seed science and bat rescues

Video games that guide the movement of paramecia, dogs trained to aid in data collection, the evolution of seeds in the Amazon Rainforest, environmental degradation captured as art and the successful rescue of more than 100 bats stranded by the devastating floods in Australia. Here are stories in ecology for the third week in January 2011. PAC-mecium: Stanford University researchers have developed, not a life-like video game, but a video game that incorporates life into its programming, according to New Scientist. “A game called PAC-mecium is Pacman with a twist: players use a console to change the polarity of an electrical field in a fluid chamber filled with paramecia, which makes the organisms move in different directions,” explained the article. As shown in the above video, the user shapes the behavior of the organisms according to what the game board shows, such as avoiding “Pacman-like fish.” Read more at “Play Pacman, Pinball and Pong with a paramecium.” Beautiful and dangerous: There has been quite a bit of news surrounding an increase in the prevalence of jellyfish in China, Australia, North America and around the world; the population boom has been linked to ocean acidification, overfishing and climate change. Researchers suggest that the jellyfish numbers indicate a larger issue of imbalanced ecosystems and an overall decline in ocean health. While often times beautiful, jellyfish can also pose a risk to humans and other marine life and have even caused power outages. Scat hunters: According to The New York Times, researchers have been using dogs to sniff out scat, making it easier to collect population distribution data. A study published recently in The Journal of Wildlife Management examined factors that would affect the dogs’ abilities to detect scents in the field. “Trained dogs can detect scat up to 33 feet away about 75 percent of the time, the researchers found,” wrote Sindya Bhanoo. “Humans, on the other hand, can see scat only within three to five feet.” Read more at “Four-Legged Assistants Sniff Out Wildlife Data.” The science of seeds: Botanists examined some of the seeds found in the Amazon Rainforest and cataloged the evolution, distribution and role that these seeds play in the most diverse rainforest in the world. “Some [of the seeds] look like brains, some like arrowheads, others like beads, propellers or puffs of cotton,” began the Scientific American article. “Seeds have evolved many of these striking features to help them propagate in the wild.” Read more at “Seeds of the Amazon” or view the slide show. Degradation as art: The New York Times highlighted the work of photographer J. Henry Fair, who collects aerial images of environmental degradation...

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From the Community: giant jellyfish, wine-scented flowers and 50 ideas in ecology

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.

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From the Community: fish-mimicking octopuses, aquanauts and the evolution of ecology

An octopus that mimics toxic sea creatures, the tobacco plant sends out an SOS when attacked, the genetic differences between ant social castes, unusually high records of jellyfish swarms this summer and Simon Levin discusses the evolution of ecology and where it is headed next. Here are stories in ecology wrapping up the month of August.

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From the Community: bearded gobies, animal warfare and sea turtle relocation

Bearded gobies preying on jellyfish in anoxic water, conspiracies of animal warfare, sea turtle relocation in a time of environmental disaster and instances of cheating in the animal kingdom. Here are stories in ecology from the second week of July.

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