Tinkering with worm sex to shed light on evolution

This post contributed by Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is a tiny laboratory animal that researchers have worked with for decades.  As a hermaphrodite, C. elegans makes both sperm and eggs and can reproduce by self-fertilization.  In contrast to humans, where hermaphrodites are rare, for C. elegans, this is its normal state.   However, male individuals, with only male...

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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 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: mapping whale acoustics, photographing the mosquito heart and measuring fly suction

Addressing plastic pollution, raising wolves for reproductive success, images of the mosquito heart to advance malaria research, mapping whale habitats and acoustics to visualize obstructions in whale communication, the potential environmental impact of space tourism and sloth anatomy to understand the evolution of mammal backbones. Here is news in ecology from the month of October. Permanency of plastic: In a recent TED video...

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Female jumping spiders fight to the death

Male jumping spiders (Phidippus clarus) size one another up before engaging in a fight—whether the aggression is based on rights to mating or territory—and in many cases, the pre-fight displays are sufficient to deter physical contact. The males do not nest but instead wander between female nests looking for opportunities to mate. The females, on the other hand, are not nomads—they build nests from silk and leaves in which they wait...

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From the Community: Atlantic garbage soup, rerouting the Red Sea and misnaming the fruit fly

Scientists develop a project to reroute water into the Dead Sea, male wasp spiders get a second chance at mating if they start with their sisters, 25% of fish in Dublin are mislabeled as completely different species and five species that cheated extinction. Here is the latest news in ecology for the third week in April. Earth Day: Last Thursday was Earth Day—in honor of the myriad of news coverage, Mental Floss gave a rundown of the...

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Bumblebee advertises infertility to avoid harassment, keep order in the colony

Bombus terrestris Credit: Alvesgaspar Researchers have found that pheromones play a key role in reproduction and social status in the buff-tailed bumblebee colony. Specifically, sterile female workers seem to advertise their infertility with extra pheromones in an attempt to ward off harassment from competing bees. The queen buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) lives for one cycle between winters, and in that time, the colony...

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The advantages of infidelity

Although not all birds mate for life, many do, and often mated pairs will stay together at least for the duration of a reproductive season.  Birds are sneaky, however, and some “sneaker” males will often try to stealthily mate with females within pairs.  Behavioral ecologists have many theories about why females engage in these extra-pair copulations. Since the birds can store sperm in specialized internal pouches, it may...

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