Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sweat bees on hot chillies: Native bees thrive in traditional farming, securing good yield

Date: January 17, 2017

Source: Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

Farming doesn't always have to be harmful to bees. On the contrary, even though farmers on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán traditionally slash-and-burn forest to create small fields, this practice can be beneficial to sweat bees by creating attractive habitats. The famers profit as well since they depend on these insects to pollinate their habanero chillies. This discovery by an international team of authors, headed by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), was recently published in the international "Journal of Applied Ecology."

Traditional farming practices on the Yucatán Peninsula originated with the region's native inhabitants, the Maya. Small parcels of forest are cut and burned, then the land planted with various crops. Afterwards the land lays fallow for a few years. This results in mosaic landscapes. The cleared land lies adjacent to forests, other fields that are currently being farmed and stretches of pasture land. "This diverse range of habitat provides excellent conditions for native sweat bees," explains Professor Robert Paxton from the Institute of Biology at MLU, where Paxton and PhD student Patricia Landaverde-González have studied 37 sites on Yucatán.

The researchers set out to discover how this type of traditional farming impacts biodiversity and bee populations. "One would assume that such a distructive type of farming would have negative consequences for the diversity of pollinator species -- particularly bees," explains Landaverde-González. Fewer bees mean that fewer plants can be pollinated, and around 70 per cent of all plants grown on the Yucatán Peninsula depend on pollination.


Scientists engineer animals with ancient genes to test causes of evolution

Date: January 13, 2017
Source: University of Chicago Medical Center

Scientists at the University of Chicago have created the first genetically modified animals containing reconstructed ancient genes, which they used to test the evolutionary effects of genetic changes that happened in the deep past on the animals' biology and fitness.

The research, published early online in Nature Ecology & Evolution on Jan. 13, is a major step forward for efforts to study the genetic basis of adaptation and evolution. The specific findings, involving the fruit fly's ability to break down alcohol in rotting fruit, overturn a widely-held hypothesis about the molecular causes of one of evolutionary biology's classic cases of adaptation.

"One of the major goals of modern evolutionary biology is to identify the genes that caused species to adapt to new environments, but it's been hard to do that directly, because we've had no way to test the effects of ancient genes on animal biology," said Mo Siddiq, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, one of the study's lead scientists.

"We realized we could overcome this problem by combining two recently developed methods -- statistical reconstruction of ancient gene sequences and engineering of transgenic animals," he said.

Until recently, most studies of molecular adaptation have analyzed gene sequences to identify "signatures of selection" -- patterns suggesting that a gene changed so quickly during its evolution that selection is likely to have been the cause. The evidence from this approach is only circumstantial, however, because genes can evolve quickly for many reasons, such as chance, fluctuations in population size, or selection for functions unrelated to the environmental conditions to which the organism is thought to have adapted.

Massive sea lion, fur seal hunting in the Patagonian coasts is altering Southern Atlantic Ocean ecosystems

Date: January 18, 2017
Source: Universidad de Barcelona

Sea lion hunting by the Europeans at the Atlantic coasts of South America -it started in the 19th Century and continued up to the second half of the 20th century in Argentina and Uruguay- changed its nutrition guidelines of these pinnipeds as well as the structure of the coastal trophic network, according to the studies by the team codirected by Lluís Cardona, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the Biodiversity Research Institute of the University of Barcelona (IRBio), and Enrique Crespo, from the Patagonian National Center and the National University of Patagonia (Argentina).
The results of this study are shown in two articles, published in the scientific journals Oecologia and Paleobiology, its co-authors being Fabiana Saporiti and Lisette Zenteno (UB-IRBio), and Damian G. Vales (Patagonian National Center), among others.

This research is one of the results of the project Efectes de l'explotació humana sobre depredadors apicals i l'estructura de la xarxa tròfica del Mar Argentí durant els darrers 6000 anys (Effects of human exploitation on apex predators and structure of the trophic network in the Argentinian sea over the last 6000 years), financially supported by BBVA Foundation and led by Professor Àlex Aguilar (UB-IRBio), head of the Research Group on Large Marine Vertebrates of the University of Barcelona.

A megafauna exploited by humans in all oceans
Hunting and fishing usually create a reduction in the abundance of bigger species. Therefore, megafauna is considered to be one of the most threatened compounds of biodiversity. Marine mammals are an essential element of megafauna in all oceans and they have been extremely exploited by humans. However, knowing about the effects of this exploitation on the functioning of food networks in marine ecosystems -a high complex structural framework- is still a hard challenge for the scientists due to the difficulty to perform manipulative experiments.

Queens Warehouse Transforms into Makeshift Cat Hospital for Hundreds of Felines Exposed to Bird Flu

By Angi Gonzalez

Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 06:04 PM EST 

A warehouse in Long Island City has been transformed into a makeshift shelter for hundreds of cats being treated for a strain of bird flu. NY1's Angi Gonzalez has the story.

"It'll be great to see these guys get out and go to homes," said Tim Rickey, with ASPCA.

This cat is among more than 500 felines on the road to recovery at this Long Island City warehouse.

"We have about 45 responders here every day providing care for the cats," Rickey said.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — took over two floors of this facility on Austell Place — right after Christmas.

Days earlier, they were tapped by the city’s Animal Care Centers to help quarantine hundreds of cats from three different shelters who'd started showing symptoms of the H7N2 virus — or bird flu.

"The ASPCA has basically an animal emergency response team and whether its disaster or cruelty cases or outbreaks like in this case we travel around the country and provide the necessary people to manage the situation," said Joel Lopez with the society.

It is still unclear just how the cats got sick, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, transmission to both cats and humans is rare.

Still, volunteers and the medical staff caring for the animals, aren't taking any chances suiting up before entering the cat quarantine.

 "We take every necessary precaution to keep our responders safe," Lopez said.

Some clients of a doggy daycare, located in the same building, initially expressed concern about what was going on just few feet away from their pets.  

"They should have told us and let us know that there is something going on in the building," said a dog dare care client.

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