Climate change prompts migratory birds to stay home, Simpsons’ writer talks conservation and the U.K. announces newest and largest MPA. Here’s what is happening in ecology from the second week in April.
When we consider all the conservation challenges facing our world and society, we know that communicating effectively to the community is not only helpful but necessary. However, many inspiring projects in various conservation areas have failed to succeed—not because the scientific background was not there or because the financial resources were unavailable—but because the community’s support was not entirely there. One of the elements to a successful conservation project is a strong connection to the community, especially during the early stages of project planning.
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 variations in brain size could indicate differences in intelligence, creativity or personality between humans. In the field of biology, however, scientists are discovering that brain variation across species might actually be linked to ecological competence. In this case, ecological competence describes the efficiency of a species to engage in ecological processes—such as flexible foraging abilities or advanced spatial memory for migration.
New movement patterns may be a sign of good news for blue whales. Blue whales have begun moving around the ocean in ways that strongly resemble their historical patterns before the advent of the whaling trade. A century ago, about 300,000 blue whales existed. But in the early 1900s, humans hunted and killed 99.9 percent of them. The population decimation made them disappear from northern waters. A new paper published online in the journal Marine Mammal Science has shown, however, that 15 individual whales have been spotted both in the waters of southern California and the Pacific Northwest since 1997 — some even as far north as the Gulf of Alaska. But scientists can’t yet be sure if this is in fact a return to historical migration patterns. From the New York Times Dot Earth blog by Andy Revkin: “It’s not yet possible to determine whether the whales are resuming long-abandoned migratory feeding journeys or shifting their patterns to match cyclical shifts in the Pacific Ocean that affect krill, their dietary mainstay, Jay Barlow, a federal whale biologist and author of the paper, said in a phone interview.” Calambokidis, J., Barlow, J., Ford, J., Chandler, T., & Douglas, A. (2009). Insights into the population structure of blue whales in the Eastern North Pacific from recent sightings and photographic identification Marine Mammal Science DOI:...