Fungus makes zombie ants administer ‘death bite’ at noon

Researcher David Hughes has expanded research on a parasitic fungus and its carpenter ant host. As explained in an excerpt from a previous EcoTone post: Scientists have found that the parasitic fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis has possibly been invading carpenter ants (Camponotus) for 48 million years. The parasite not only infects the ant, but it manipulates the ant’s behavior, driving it to bite the underside of the leaf at the...

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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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Ecosystem snapshot: reassessing the role of wolves in Yellowstone

Just off the road at sunrise between Old Faithful and Madison Junction. Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Geyser at night. The trunks of adult quaking aspens. Bulging elk in Yellowstone taken in 1927 by S.T. Woodring. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996. Photo taken in January 2008. According to a recent study, many aspen groves in Yellowstone National Park are failing to regenerate. Healthy quaking aspens in Salt...

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From the Community: A week of ecology in mixed media

Video describing the challenges of male pregnancy, photo gallery of the oldest trees in the world, podcast outlining Earth’s environmental tipping points and an article on adapting to the anthropocene. Here is ecological news from the third week in March: Icy life: NASA discovers amphipod—a shrimp-like creature—swimming 600 feet below the ice in Antarctica. Read more in “No sunlight, no food, frozen conditions, but NASA finds complex...

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Can birds affect tree growth?

Grasshoppers are one type of herbivorous insect Bridgeland et al. surveyed Growing conditions, such as water and nutrient supply, are the major determinates of tree growth, but insectivorous birds can also play an important role, say scientists in a study published in the January issue of Ecology.  Under the right conditions, birds contribute to whole tree growth by preying on herbaceous arthropods, such as leafhoppers, caterpillars...

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Climate change doubles tree deaths

Tree deaths have more than doubled in the western U.S. in the past 20-30 years, and the culprit is climate change, according to a paper published Friday in Science. Warming has all kinds of consequences for species ranges.  Changes in temperature can narrow a species’ range or move it latitudinally through changes in average yearly temperatures and alterations of the growing or reproductive seasons. In the case of trees, other factors...

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