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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Animal-made art, medicine and language

An impressive work of wasp art is discovered in an ordinary attic, lizards that use venom to lower the blood pressure of prey could contribute to new medications, researchers translate prairie dog alarms and discover a language, contestants submit ideas for bridges designed to prevent wildlife from becoming roadkill and street art in China raises awareness of wooden chopstick waste. Here are stories in ecology and the environment from...

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From the Community: Parasitic wasps, flamingo pigment and spiny anteaters

Altered behavior in caterpillars carrying wasp eggs, preliminary thoughts on the 2010 election results, monitoring climate change from Mount Everest to Baffin Bay, insight into drug-resistant bacteria mutations and origins of the Black Death. Here is the latest in ecological science for the first week in November.

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Field Talk: Uniformity and diversity in the Homogecene era

Imagine a small town where everything is uniform—a tiny community of individuals who eat the same meals and pair up with people with similar qualities and traits. The scenery is stripped down: one church, one pub and cookie-cutter houses. Now add in social interactions. Greetings occur but they have few variations; life is routine. And just a few miles over in a town with the same layout, similar individuals are interacting, eating and greeting, in all the same ways.

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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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