Friday 30 October 2015

Climate change threatens survival of common lizards

Date:October 26, 2015

While there is no doubt that climate change is affecting many organisms, some species might be more sensitive than others. Reptiles, whose body temperature depends directly on environmental temperature, may be particularly vulnerable. Scientists have now shown experimentally that lizards cope very poorly with the climate predicted for the year 2100.

In a new study, publishing in the Open Access journal PLOS Biology on October 26th, Elvire Bestion, Julien Cote and colleagues examined the consequences of a 2°C warmer climate on the persistence of populations of common lizards (Zootoca vivipara), a widespread European reptile. Their results show that many common lizard populations could disappear rapidly as a consequence of such warmer temperatures.

"Breed fast and die young" seems to be the new mantra of common lizards in the face of climate change; it is also the conclusion reached by researchers from the Station d'écologie expérimentale du CNRS à Moulis (SEEM) and the Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique (EDB, CNRS/Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier/ENFA) who studied this small European reptile species.

Electric Embrace: Eels Curl Up to Supercharge Shocks

by Elizabeth Palermo, Associate Editor | October 28, 2015 02:39pm ET

It's kind of like walking straight into an electric fence, or getting shot with a stun gun. That's how one biologist describes the experience of getting zapped by an electric eel.

"You wouldn't voluntarily do it over and over again," said Kenneth Catania, a professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of a new study about the electric eels' shocking behavior.

Catania has been zapped a few times since he began studying the electric eel (Electrophorus electricus), a fish that's indigenous to the murky waters of the Amazon. Endowed with three electricity-producing organs, E. electricus can send a pulse, or volley, of high-voltage electricity through the water toward prey items. These shocks aren't meant to kill the prey, just demobilize it so the eel can more easily consume its victims, Catania told Live Science.

Distressed damsel fish cry for help

Date:October 27, 2015
Source:ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have found that fish release a chemical 'distress call' when caught by predators, dramatically boosting their chances of survival.

Fish harbour a chemical substance in their skin that's released upon injury. It triggers fearful and escape behaviour in nearby fish, but until now scientists hadn't identified the benefits to the sender.

"For decades scientists have debated the evolutionary origin of chemical alarm cues in fish," says study lead author, Dr. Oona Lönnstedt, now a research fellow at the University of Uppsala.

The researchers have now found the answer, discovering that the chemical cue attracts additional predators to the capture site.

"Chemical alarm cues in fish seem to function in a similar way to the distress calls emitted by many birds and mammals following capture," says study co-author Professor Mark McCormick from the Coral CoE.

Rewilding the future

Date:October 27, 2015

Source:Aarhus University

New research shows that the loss of large animals has had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and that reintroducing large animal faunas may restore biodiverse ecosystems.

Rewilding is gaining a lot of interest as an alternative conservation and land management approach in recent years, but remains controversial. It is increasingly clear that Earth harbored rich faunas of large animals -- such as elephants, wild horses and big cats -- pretty much everywhere, but that these have starkly declined with the spread of humans across the world -- a decline that continues in many areas.

A range of studies now show that these losses have had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and a prominent strain of rewilding, trophic rewilding, focuses on restoring large animal faunas and their top-down food-web effects to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems.

A new study led by researchers from Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, published in PNAS today, synthesizes the current scientific research on trophic rewilding and outlines key research priorities for rewilding science.

Bad-Rap Bats in Danger of Extinction Around the World (Photos)

Ricardo Antunes and Julie Larsen Maher, Wildlife Conservation Society | October 29, 2015 

Ricardo Antunes is a conservation biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). He has extensive field experience studying marine mammals across the globe. Julie Larsen Maher is staff photographer for WCS, the first woman to hold the position since the society's founding in 1895. In addition to documenting her field visits, Maher photographs the animals at WCS’s five New York-based wildlife parks: the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo. The authors contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Bats are misunderstood mammals.

Vampire folklore tells of winged creatures with fangs that prey on the living for their blood under the veil of darkness. While it is true that some bats live in caves, come out at dusk and drink blood, they are vital to our ecosystems. As their numbers continue to dwindle due to persecution, habitat loss and disease, they need our help — not our superstition.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Turtle Nesting Beach Work Day Benefits Spiny Softshell Turtles – via Herp Digest

NORTH HERO, Vt. by Staci DaSilva ,10/24 2015, Nexstar TV
The annual Autumn Turtle Nesting Beach Work Day, held by Vermont Fish & Wildlife, aims to protect the state threatened species.
Volunteers do their part to sustain the species by pulling up vegetation to prepare the sites for nesting next June.
They began their day of cleanup on Saturday at North Hero State Park.
The turtles nest on only a few beaches on the northern parts of Lake Champlain, according to Fish & Wildlife.
"Because so much of the lakeshore is developed, that we have to maintain some of these big sites that have multiple turtles nesting, hundreds, sometimes 200 turtles in small areas,” said Steve Parren, Fish & Wildlife Biologist.
Nesting Beach Work Day not only opens spiny softshell turtles, but also map turtles, painted turtles and snapping turtles.
Some hatchling turtles will be raised in captivity by experts at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center while they are small and most vulnerable to predators.
They will be released back into Lake Champlain in the spring.

Researchers find that some guppies can count

October 28, 2015

The humble guppy may not look like the smartest fish in the school, but research conducted by Associate Professor Culum Brown, from the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, and colleagues from the University of Padova, has shown that they are far smarter than we thought. Their research, published in Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience, examined the ability of guppies to count.

"We found that guppies that have very strongly lateralised brains are better at counting than those that have non-lateralised brains," said Professor Brown.

Scientists have often wondered why humans and other animals have lateralised brains, where the two halves of their brain execute different functions. In humans, for example, the left hemisphere is often associated with language and maths, while the right hemisphere is more artistic. One theory suggests that having strongly lateralised brains allows each hemisphere to analyse information separately.

Lions Are Disappearing Across Africa

by Tia Ghose, Senior Writer | October 26, 2015 03:00pm ET

Lions are disappearing from most of the African continent, and the decline is especially evident in West Africa, according to new research.

The lion population has has been in decline since 1992, largely because of conflicts with native herders and declines in lions' prey species, the new survey found. Almost two-thirds of the more than 8,000 lions studied live in populations facing decline. West African lion populations are likely to drop by half in over the next two decades, if conservation measures aren't stepped up, the study found.

"A lot of the African bush is now silent of the lion's roar," said study co-author Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, an organization dedicated to the conservation of big cats. "We're losing that characteristic emblem of African wilderness." 

290-Million-Year-Old Creature Could Sprout New Limbs

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | October 27, 2015 03:36pm ET

If an ancient amphibian lost a limb or a tail, it could simply sprout a new one, according to researchers who found fossil evidence of limb regeneration dating back 290 million years.

The finding shows that some Carboniferous and Permian period animals had regenerative abilities a full 80 million years before salamanders, one of the few modern-day animal groups that can fully regenerate their limbs and tail, existed in the fossil record.

The fact that other tetrapods — a group comprised of four-legged vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds — had regenerative abilities suggests there are multiple ways to regrow limbs, said study lead researcher Nadia Fröbisch, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in Berlin. 

What was killing the young right whales? New research finds a suspect

Study links mysterious deaths of right whale calves to harmful algal blooms

Date:October 26, 2015
Source:NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

The baby whales suddenly began dying in 2005. And continued for several years running.

Scientists had never seen anything like it around Peninsula Valdes, an important calving ground for southern right whales on the coast of Argentina, or anywhere else for that matter. The average number of right whale deaths per year at Peninsula Valdes jumped more than 10-fold, from fewer than six per year before 2005 to 65 per year from 2005 to 2014.

Even more striking, 90 percent of the deaths from 2005 to 2014 were very young calves fewer than three months old. The mystery killer appeared to be targeting the nearly newborn, sometimes more than 100 calves of the endangered species each year.

Now researchers have closed in on a prime suspect: Blooms of toxic algae, the same kind that sometimes force the closure of clamming and other shellfish harvesting.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

How a flying bat sees space

For the first time, neural recordings reveal how flying bats comprehend 3-D space

Date:October 22, 2015
Source:National Science Foundation

Recordings from echolocating bat brains have for the first time given researchers a view into how mammals understand 3-D space.

By training bats to fly around obstacles in a room, and sit patiently on a platform, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research team were able to interpret how the animals use echolocation -- a high-frequency sound navigation system that bats use to hunt -- to sense their environment. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

The researchers focused on a particular portion of the bat brain, the mid-brain superior colliculus. All mammal brains have a superior colliculus, and it plays a role in "orienting behavior," or how species move through space. In humans, that means using visual cues. For bats, it means acoustic ones, or echolocation.

Bats direct their sound beam to inspect objects in their environment, just as primates move their eyes to see their environment, said Cynthia Moss of Johns Hopkins University. She researches spatial perception, memory, motor behaviors and more. Her Batlab conducted the research.

Research points way to more bat-friendly roads and railways

How can we build wildlife-friendly roads and railways?

Date:October 22, 2015
Source:University of Leeds

Scientists behind new research into the effects of transport infrastructure on biodiversity have developed much-needed approaches to protect wildlife.

A Defra-funded study, conducted by a team from the University of Leeds led by Professor John Altringham, sets out best practice principles for assessing the impact of new roads and railways on bats, as well as the effectiveness of mitigation measures installed to help them cross safely.

These new survey methods should improve the efficiency of planning processes, thereby benefitting both developers and wildlife.

The researchers' new report highlights the need for a more rigorous, evidence-based approach to protecting wildlife during development.

Professor Altringham and his colleagues argue that previous work has not been based on good ecological understanding, while a lack of effective monitoring has hidden failure.

Describing bats as 'the canary in the mine' -- key indicators of biodiversity -- the researchers believe more attention should be given to the potential effects of transport infrastructure on biodiversity.

Australian ghost sharks’ fused necks help clarify how human necks developed

OCTOBER 23, 2015

by Susanna Pilny

An unusual source offers insight into human health problems, as researchers from Monash University used the naturally fused neck vertebrae of sharks to study neck development gone awry in humans.

As published in PLOS ONE, the study may bring new light to the development or disorders such as Klippel-Feil syndrome, in which the vertebrae of the neck harden together. However, in other animals, like sharks and rays, a neck encased in bone is the norm. And so the team studied the development of fused necks in elephant sharks (otherwise known as Australian ghost shark).

“In some animal species, part of the animal’s body mimics what we see in a human disease. These species are known as ‘evolutionary mutants,’ and analyzing them provides unprecedented access to information in a healthy individual,” said lead researcher Catherine Boisvert of Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute in a Futurity statement.

“We are gaining a better understanding on how these morphologies develop and what developmental pathways (genes and their networks) are involved in producing them. This knowledge may help us better understand the disease in humans.”

Bats important to survival of rare frog, other species

Date:October 21, 2015
Source:University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Bat poop matters. So says a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study examining a little-known species, the Caucasian parsley frog, and its reliance on insects that breed in bat guano.

Vladimir Dinets, UT research assistant professor of psychology, conducted a study of the frogs in remote caves hidden in densely forested mountains near the border between Russia and the Republic of Georgia. Until now, virtually everything that was known about the little frogs' natural history came from studies in breeding pools, where they congregate in spring.

Dinets found that in the summer, most of the frogs find shelter in limestone caves, although some probably wander outside at night. The frogs showed significant preference for caves with bat colonies, most likely because insects breeding in bat waste provided a rich source of food.

"This is yet another study showing how critically important are bats for the environment," Dinets said. "Their role is not limited to controlling agricultural pests; entire cave ecosystems with dozens of species depend on bats for survival, and many of these species are yet to be discovered."

The study was recently published in the Herpetological Bulletin, a leading scientific publication devoted to herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles.

UK animal experiment count 'falls'

22nd October 2015
By Jonathan Webb
Science reporter, BBC News

The Home Office's annual statistics show a 6% drop in animal experiments in the UK - but the office has changed the way it collects these figures.

An EU directive has been adopted that means tests are counted when they conclude, instead of when they begin, making comparisons difficult.

But Home Office staff are "confident" that animal use has, indeed, fallen.

As usual, 50% of the 3.87 million total "procedures" were GM animals, which were created but not used in tests.

That overall figure compares to 4.12 million in 2013. But the Home Office's chief statistician David Blunt emphasised that there was a "discontinuity" between those two figures.

"This means that any comparisons made between 2014 and earlier should be made with caution," Mr Blunt told journalists at a briefing on Thursday.

"The 6% fall is what the data's got, but maybe it's not quite as big as that. But I'm still confident that there's a fall; it may be 3 or 4% or something like that."
Categorising discomfort

Lord Bates, a Home Office minister, said he was "encouraged" to see the number of procedures apparently falling.

"Today's figures indicate the science community continues to respond to the government's firm commitment to adopting measures to replace, reduce and refine animal use," he declared in a written statement.

But the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) condemned the number of "severe" animal experiments taking place.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Crocodiles Might Literally Sleep With One Eye Open

by Elizabeth Palermo, Associate Editor | October 23, 2015 10:24am ET

Have you heard the expression "better sleep with one eye open?" Crocodiles may take that phrase literally, according to a new study. To stay abreast of potential threats in their environment, crocs sometimes keep an eye open while snoozing, scientists found.

Lots of animals close only one eye while sleeping, including birds and some aquatic mammals, said John Lesku, a research fellow at La Trobe University in Australia and one of the authors of the new study. But not much research has been conducted on the one-eyed naps of crocodiles, which are more closely related to birds than they are to other reptiles, according to the study researchers.

By taking a look at how often crocs hang out with one eye open, Lesku and his colleagues hoped to shed some light on the mystery of when this behavior may have evolved, and whether it's actually unusual. After all, it could be that the tendency of humans and other terrestrial mammals to shut both eyes while sleeping is what's strange, Lesku said.

Always watching

Sleeping with one eye open is known as unihemispheric sleep, and it occurs when one side of the brain remains "awake," while the other half enters a sleep state. During unihemispheric sleep, the eye that is neurologically connected to the wakeful part of the brain stays open — a behavior known as "unilateral eye closure," or UEC.

Though UEC is helpful for watching out for predators, some animals also engage in this behavior to keep an eye on their own kind. Aquatic mammals, such as bottlenose dolphinsand killer whales, often use UEC to track one another in the water, according to Lesku, who said there are a few theories about why they do this.

"It is thought that [UEC] reflects a way of maintaining group cohesiveness in a highly social animal. It could also be that, in a fairly boring aquarium, they simply keep their open eye on the most interesting thing – each other," Lesku told Live Science in an email. He added that researchers need to carry out more observations of these animals in their native habitats to find out if either of these explanations is correct.

But regardless of why aquatic animals sleep with one eye open, it's clear that all animals that engage in this behavior do so to monitor their environment in some way, Lesku said. And crocodiles are no exception.

Crocs on the clock

For the study, the researchers observed the "eye states" of juvenilesaltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) that were kept in an enclosure. To establish a baseline for comparison, the researchers measured the time the animals spent with both eyes open, both eyes closed and with just one eye open, in 24-hour increments.

They found that, under normal circumstances, crocs don't stare at the world through just one eye very often (about 1 hour each day). And most of the time, crocodiles keep both eyes closed(about 17 hours total each day).

"It certainly seems to me that the animals preferred to either have both eyes open or both eyes closed," Lesku said.

However, when presented with "an interesting visual stimulus," crocs were more likely to open one eye than they were when there wasn't anything to look at, the researchers found. For instance, when another crocodile was placed in a tank adjacent to the tank of the croc under observation (but separated by a glass partition), the croc under observation was slightly more likely to open one eye than it was to keep both eyes closed. And crocs that did open one eye were very likely to direct their gaze at the other crocodile in the room, the scientists said. [Alligators vs. Crocodiles: Photos Reveal Who's Who]

These eye-popping results were more pronounced when the researchers introduced another visual stimulus on the other side of the partition — a human. When a human stood opposite a crocodile, the croc was very likely to open one eye and peer at the intruder, the researchers found.

"The crocodiles focused their gaze towards the human, and, indeed, continued to watch the location [where] the human had been even after he left the room," Lesku said.

Strange sleeper

While crocs were more likely to open one eye when presented with visual stimuli, it isn't yet known if the crocs were actually asleep with one eye open. To find out if a croc's UEC is a direct result of unihemispheric sleep, researchers will have to measure the animals' brain waves, Lesku said.

"The gold-standard for identifying sleep in mammals and birds is by looking at brain waves for specific patterns that indicate a sleeping or waking animal," Lesku said. "In our study we focused only on eye state. Whether two closed eyes always means that the animal is asleep, and two open eyes for an awake animal is yet unknown."

But if crocs are really engaging in unihemispheric sleep, then this behavior could help researchers get to the bottom of how the practice evolved in the first place. If the crocs are sleeping with one eye open, then this practice "likely evolved in the earliest reptiles and was retained by their descendants," according to Lesku.

"If true, then bihemispherically sleeping terrestrial mammals, including ourselves, may be quite unusual in the way we sleep," Lesku said.

Follow Elizabeth Palermo @techEpalermo. Follow Live Science@livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Elizabeth PalermoElizabeth is an associate editor at Live Science who writes about science and technology. She graduated with a B.A. from the George Washington University. Elizabeth has traveled throughout the Americas, studying political systems and indigenous cultures and teaching English to students of all ages.

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76-million-year-old, pig-snouted turtle is ‘one of the weirdest turtles that ever lived’

OCTOBER 22, 2015

by Savanna Walker

A new species of turtle that lived 76 million years ago has been described as “one of the weirdest turtles that ever lived” by Joshua Lively, who studied the fossil and has recently published his analysis in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by a team from the Natural History Museum of Utah, the turtle was about two feet long, with a streamlined shell evolved for a life spent in rivers. But unlike any other turtle in history, the snout of this specimen had two openings, making it look like a turtle with a transplanted pig’s nose.

All other turtles have just one nasal opening, according to Time magazine. It’s been named Arvinachelys goldeni as a result of this strange feature, with the first part being derived from arvina, the Latin word for pig fat or bacon.

Where'd this ugly guy come from?

In the Late Cretaceous period when A. goldeni lived, western North America was an island continent named Laramidia and was separated from eastern North American by a large sea. It's already known that the dinosaurs of southern Laramidia diversified while isolated from their relatives in the northern parts of the continent, and did not seem to interbreed with the populations from the north.

With this new discovery, it would seem that the turtles of that period fit the same pattern. It's still unknown exactly why the southern populations were isolated from the north, but researchers have suggested rising sea levels and persistent climate changes prevented animals from ranging over wide sections of territory.

Marine conservationists claim Japanese fishermen are dumping dolphin corpses at sea

Fishermen dumping small dolphins so they can fill quota with more profitable specimens as annual Taiji dolphin hunt begins, says Sea Shepherd

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Thursday 22 October 2015 23.01 BSTLast modified on Thursday 22 October 201523.12 BST

Marine conservationists have claimed that fishermen in the Japanese town of Taiji are dumping the corpses of small dolphins out at sea so that they can fill their annual quota with larger, more profitable specimens.

The conservation organisation Sea Shepherd released images on Thursday of a juvenile Risso’s dolphin it claimed had washed ashore in Taiji after being thrown overboard by local fishermen, who began their annual dolphin hunt last month.

The group said it believed the dolphin had been among a pod of 18 to 20 Risso’s dolphins driven to the shore and killed earlier this week. It claimed the dolphin had been discarded so it would not be counted as part of the fishermen’s annual quota.

David Hance, a Sea Shepherd campaigner, claimed that fishermen have been loading dead juvenile dolphins on to boats and concealing them with tarpaulin, before taking them out to the open sea and dumping them.

“These dolphins were slaughtered, just like their families, and should be counted in this season’s death toll,” Hance said.

Last year, Taiji’s fishermen caught 937 dolphins – well short of their quota of 1,971; this season’s quota for all species of dolphin caught off the town’s coast has been set at 1,873.

Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson, blamed the deaths on the lucrative international trade in live dolphins; the most attractive and profitable specimens are selected from the total haul, with the remainder slaughtered and sold in Japanfor their meat.

“Until there is no longer a demand for captive dolphins and whales around the world or until the world steps up and demands an end to the brutal hunts from the government of Japan, cetaceans will continue to die in Taiji,” Watson said.

South African conservationist shock over surge in Kruger elephant poaching

The country's national parks authority reveals 19 elephants have been killed this year – 12 in the past two months – after years of focus on protecting more regularly targeted rhinos from poachers

By Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg

5:11PM BST 22 Oct 2015

South African wildlife officials have expressed shock over the poaching of 19 elephants in the country’s flagship Kruger National Park in the first mass poaching incident for decades that reveals the growing demand for illegal ivory.

The elephants were killed in the north of the park close to the borders withZimbabwe and Mozambique. Two died at the start of the year, three died in July, two died in August and 12 died in September and October.

Until now, efforts have been focused on keeping South Africa's vulnerable rhino population safe from poachers: until two elephants were killed last year, South Africa had lost no elephants for "well over a decade", its national parks authority said.

The latest deaths will raise fears that the country is the latest target of poachers supplying the illegal ivory trade worth more than $1 billion (£656 million) annually, after large-scale attacks on elephants in countries further north.

Most end up in Asia where it is carved into trinkets and given as presents.

Giant squid writ small: juvenile monsters of the deep captured off Japan

Three young squid caught by marine biologists are the spitting image of their gigantic parents – if nearly 1,000lbs and 50ft smaller

Alan Yuhas in New York

Saturday 24 October 2015 16.12 BST

Marine biologists have captured three young giant squid, Japanese researchers reported, in what would be the first confirmed catch of very young juveniles of the elusive creature.

The young squid, caught off south-western Japan, are replicas of their gigantic parents who live in the deep. Two were caught together; all three weighed less than 1lb and spanned 5-13ins. Adults can reach 50ft and 1,000lbs.

The smallest squid was captured alive, at a depth of 45 metres, leading the researchers to speculate that young squid may drift on ocean currents or inhabit shallow water at night. They “may inhabit and migrate through different depths of the ocean depending on the development stage”, the researchers said.

The researchers said “genetic analysis” supported their identification of the squid as juvenile giants, which was also based on mantles, suckers and other body parts. The squid were caught by various fishermen in 2013, but the researchers published their findings only this week, in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records.

“This is the first time in the world that such young giant squid were found, and it has helped us understand what they are like this early in their life stage,” paper co-author Toshifumi Wada told the Wall Street Journal.

That two of the squid were captured together in the Sea of Japan may indicate that juvenile giant squid travel together, he added, in contrast to the solitary habits of adults.

Monday 26 October 2015

Vibrations tell bees where mates are from

Date:October 22, 2015

Source:Cell Press

In choosing among potential suitors, red mason bee females pay attention to the specific way in which males of the species vibrate their bodies. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 22 have found that those vibrations carry important information about where their potential mates are from.

The findings are the first to suggest that bees rely on vibrations, in addition to chemical signals, as a mode of mate recognition.

"We were really surprised to find that bees use vibrational signals not only as a sign for fitness but also for information on where a male comes from," says Taina Conrad of the University of Ulm in Germany. "This is complex information, and we did not expect this to be encoded in this signal."

Red mason bees (O. bicornis) in Europe fall into one of two main subspecies, which are hard to tell apart from one another. The two differ only in one morphological trait: the color of the hair on the tips of their abdomens, which is either black or red.

Earlier studies showed that female bees rely on vibrational signals to identify stronger mates, preferentially choosing males that vibrate for longer periods of time. Conrad and Manfred Ayasse wondered whether those vibrational signals might also carry information about a male bee's subspecies identity.

To find out, they attached a small magnet to the males' thoraxes, using a frequency generator and electromagnetic field to transfer a previously recorded signal from a male of one subspecies onto the magnet (and the male) of the other subspecies.

Rare whale confirmed in the wild for the first time

Known only from DNA samples from whaling samples and the occasional body from a stranding scientists for the first time have confirmed a sighting of a rare whale.

The Omura's whales live off the coast of Madagascar and are often confused for the Bryde's whales because they look so much alike. Scientists though have made the first field observations of this rare whale and published their results in Royal Society Open Science journal.

The study describes the behaviour of feeding in the shallow waters off the coast of Madagascar and also describes the vocalisations of the whales.

While the Omura's whale is similar to the Bryde's whale there are distinct differences allowing people to recognise the species. The Omura's is smaller than the Brydes and most noticeable are the distinct markings around the lower jaw. The Omura's have a white marking on the left side of the jaw and a dark marking on the right side.

The species was set apart from other whales as recently as 2003 when DNA samples from whaling victims were analysed. The data was further confirmed with samples taken from strandings on the Pacific coast but no confirmed sightings of the species in the wild had been made until this study.

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