For bees (and flowers), tongue size matters
Jul15

For bees (and flowers), tongue size matters

When it comes to bee tongues, length is proportional to the size of the bee, but heritage sets the proportion. Estimating this hard to measure trait helps scientists understand bee species’ resiliency to change. Ecologists will report on this and other pollination research news at the Ecological Society of America’s 2014 Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Cal., August 10-15.   For bees and the flowers they pollinate, a compatible...

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Bats: an important resource

This post contributed by Terence Houston, ESA Science Policy Analyst This week, the Ecological Society of America is holding its 96th Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.  As over 3,000 ecologists participate in the meeting’s numerous scientific sessions, a highlight in Austin that most meeting attendees will make every effort to see are the city’s famous bats. As seen in the video below, between March and November, every evening around...

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The UK landscape, naked mole rat genome and plant pollination tricks

Termites and biofuel: Mike Scharf from Purdue University and colleagues explored how enzymes found in the guts of termites could be useful in breaking down biomass—that is, branches, leaves and other woody debris—to hasten the production of biofuels. As he said in a recent press release, “For the most part, people have overlooked the host termite as a source of enzymes that could be used in the production of biofuels. For a long...

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Pollination from the plant’s perspective

If plants had a perspective, they would probably think of pollinators as more than just extra-friendly house guests. That is, plants would be more likely to view pollinators as the mutual friend who likes to set up blind dates. Bees might limit pollen to its use as a protein source for the hive, and birds might devour the flesh of a fruit and eliminate the seed as waste. However, many flowering plants, as Bug Girl pointed out in a...

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The story of the fig and its wasp

Inside the rounded fruit of a fig tree is a maze of flowers. That is, a fig is not actually a fruit; it is an inflorescence—a cluster of many flowers and seeds contained inside a bulbous stem. Because of this unusual arrangement, the seeds—technically the ovaries of the fig—require a specialized pollinator that is adapted to navigate within these confined quarters. Here begins the story of the relationship between figs and fig wasps....

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The evolution of beer yeasts, seedy pants and vampire bat venom-turned medicine

Beer yeasts: Researchers at Lund University in Sweden tracked the history of two yeasts—Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Dekkera bruxellensis—used in alcohol fermentation to pinpoint their role in ethanol production. They found that, around 150 million years ago, competition with other microbes, and the overall increase in sugar-rich fruits, encouraged the yeasts to withstand high ethanol concentrations—an adaptation that would allow them...

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From the Community: Birds, bees, bats, beer and biofuels

A process of producing biofuels that yields brewer’s yeast, researchers’ evidence that human neurodegenerative disorders in Guam in the 1960s were linked to cyanobacteria, President Obama shows support for synthetic biology research and scientists track migratory birds at their farthest recorded distance. Here are highlights in ecology for the last week in May.

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Smell, not sight, guides fly and wasp flower selection (or why stinky flowers attract flies)

Picture this: a luscious green mountain range littered off and on with flowers of every type. Lower in the mountains is green vegetation, higher up are grasslands. Eucomis, or pineapple lilies, have a striking, colorful appearance and grow at varying altitudes along the mountainside. But there tends to be one surpising difference: Two species of the higher altitude pineapple lilies have, not the delicate scent of coconut as do some of the other species, but the much more alarming scent of carrion.

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