Thursday, 18 April 2019

Fruit bats are reforesting African woodlands


APRIL 2, 2019
Not only do intact ecosystems delight the eye of nature lovers, they also help people financially. However, it is difficult to put an exact figure on how much money they actually generate in specific cases. For the first time, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, together with their colleagues from Sweden and Ghana, have now calculated the ecological and financial benefits of straw-coloured fruit bats in Africa.
Every night, individuals of this bat species fly long distances to their feeding grounds in the course of which they disseminate the seeds of the fruits they consume. According to the researchers, a colony of 150,000 animals disseminate more than 300,000 small seeds in a single night. This is sufficient to kickstart the regrowth of 800 hectares of forest – for a single colony. Thus, both forests and humans could benefit from better protection for these creatures, which are primarily at risk from hunting.


Invasive round gobies may be poised to decimate endangered French Creek mussels


APRIL 1, 2019
The round goby—a small, extremely prolific, invasive fish from Europe—poses a threat to endangered freshwater mussels in northwestern Pennsylvania's French Creek, one of the last strongholds for two species of mussels, according to researchers.
French Creek flows from southwest New York state about 117 miles to the Allegheny River at Franklin, Pennsylvania. It is the most species-rich stream in Pennsylvania and is nationally recognized for its biodiversity, with more than 80 species of fish and 29 species of freshwater mussels.
Four of the mussels in French Creek are listed under the Endangered Species Act: northern riffleshell, snuffbox, clubshell and rayed bean. Northern riffleshell and clubshell mussels are considered critically imperiled and have lost 95 percent of their historic global range—but they appear to have stable populations in French Creek.

Love Island: Flamboyant males get the girls on Madagascar


APRIL 2, 2019
Biodiversity hotspot Madagascar is one of the world's biggest islands, and home to some of its biggest insects. Now German scientists have discovered two new species of giant stick insect, living only in the dry forests of Madagascar's northernmost tip.
One giant female measures a whopping 24cm—but it is the smaller males that are most striking. At sexual maturity these daredevils abandon their stick-like camouflage for dazzling blue or many-colored shining armor.
Writing in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the researchers describe their rare and exciting findings, and wonder at the reproductive success of the least stick-like stick insects on the planet.
When two become four
"Nearly all of the 3000+ known species of stick insects try to be inconspicuous and just look like twigs," says senior author Dr. Sven Bradler of the University of Göttingen, Germany. "There are a very few, very large exceptions—and we have just discovered a couple more of them."
The authors re-examined specimens they'd previously identified as odd-looking examples of two existing giant stick insect species, whose adult males remarkably are bright blue or multicolored.

Biologists observe a three-toed skink lay eggs and give birth to a live baby


Date:  April 2, 2019
Source:  University of Sydney
In a world first, researchers at the University of Sydney have observed a normally live-bearing Australian lizard lay three eggs and then weeks later, give birth to a live baby from the same pregnancy. This is the first time such an event has been documented in a single litter of vertebrate babies.
The three-toed skink (Saiphos equalis) is one of only a handful of rare "bimodally reproductive" species, in which some individuals lay eggs and others give birth to live babies. But up until now, no vertebrate has ever been observed to do both in one litter.
"It is a very unusual discovery," said Dr Camilla Whittington, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.
The three-toed skink is native to the east coast of Australia. In the northern highlands of New South Wales the animals normally give birth to live young, but those living in and around Sydney lay eggs.
"We were studying the genetics of these skinks when we noticed one of the live-bearing females lay three eggs," Dr Whittington said. "Several weeks later she gave birth to another baby. Seeing that baby was a very exciting moment!"
The observation will be published in Biology Letters this week, along with advanced microscopy of the egg-coverings.

Fluorescence discovered in tiny Brazilian frogs


MARCH 29, 2019
An international team of researchers led by NYU Abu Dhabi Postdoctoral Associate Sandra Goutte was studying the acoustic communications of these miniature frogs. When they discovered that Brachycephalus ephippium could not hear its own mating calls, they searched for alternative visual signals the frogs could use to communicate instead. Unexpectedly, when they shone an ultra-violet (UV) lamp on the frogs, their backs and heads glowed intensely.
"The fluorescent patterns are only visible to the human eye under a UV lamp. In nature, if they were visible to other animals, they could be used as intra-specific communication signals or as reinforcement of their aposematic coloration, warning potential predators of their toxicity," says Sandra Goutte.
Pumpkin toadlets (also called Brachycephalus ephippium) are tiny, brightly-colored, and poisonous frogs that can be found in the Brazilian Atlantic forest. During the mating season, they can be seen by day walking around the forest and producing soft buzzing calls in search of a mate.

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