Coverage of articles in the media

Of bears and berries: Return of wolves aids grizzly bears in Yellowstone

A new study suggests that the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is beginning to bring back a key part of the diet of grizzly bears that has been missing for much of the past century – berries that help bears put on fat before going into hibernation. It's one of the first reports to identify the interactions between these large, important predators, based on complex ecological processes. The researchers found that the level of berries consumed by Yellowstone grizzlies is significantly higher now that shrubs are starting to recover following the re-introduction of wolves, which have reduced over-browsing by elk herds. The berry bushes also produce flowers of value to pollinators like butterflies, insects and hummingbirds; food for other small and large mammals; and special benefits to birds. BBC News, The Independent, Reuters, Los Angeles Times.

 

For polar bears, it's survival of the fattest

One of the most southerly populations of polar bears in the world – and the best studied – is struggling to cope with climate-induced changes to sea ice, new research reveals. Based on over 10 years' data, the study in western Hudson Bay, where sea ice melts completely each summer and typically re-freezes from late November to early December, sheds new light on how sea ice conditions drive polar bears' annual migration on and off the ice. The Telegraph, The Guardian, French Tribune.

 

Some Alaskan trout use flexible guts for the ultimate binge diet

Certain animals in the laboratory are known to grow and shrink their digestive tract in response to gorging on food, but researchers at the University of Washington have for the first time documented a wild fish, Dolly Varden, a kind of trout, doing just this in Alaska's Chignik Lake watershed where long, cold winters make food scarce. Fish appeared to gorge on eggs, increasing the size of their digestive machinery and achieving nearly their entire annual energy surplus, during the ∼5-week period when sockeye salmon spawn. NBC News, Science World Report, redOrbit.

 

Disease not a factor in Tassie Tiger extinction

Humans alone were responsible for the demise of Australia's iconic extinct native predator, the Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine, a new study led by the University of Adelaide has concluded. Using a new population modelling approach, the study contradicts the widespread belief that disease must have been a factor in the extinction of the thylacine, a unique marsupial carnivore found throughout most of Tasmania before European settlement in 1803. The Telegraph, Science alert, Yahoo! News, Australian Geographic.

 

Ecologists shed new light on effects of light pollution on wildlife

Coasts and estuaries, which are key wildlife habitats, are among the most rapidly developing areas on Earth. Night-time satellite images of the planet show that except Antarctica, continents are ringed with halos of brightly-lit human development. Researchers from the University of Exeter have become the first to investigate the effect of artificial light on feeding shorebirds, finding that the illumination actually allowed redshanks to forage more efficiently. At night, birds in brightly-lit areas foraged for longer and foraged by sight, rather than touch, compared with birds under darker night skies. The Guardian, BBC Scotland, Scotsman, Phys.org.

 

Mother wolves’ body weight and pack size key to a thriving brood

Reproduction in social animals is shaped by numerous morphological, behavioral and life-history traits such as body size, cooperative breeding, and age of reproduction, respectively. Little is known, however, about the relative influence of these different types of traits on reproduction, particularly in the context of environmental conditions that determine their adaptive value. Here, using 14 years of data from a long-term study of wolves (Canis lupus) in Yellowstone National Park, USA, Stahler and colleagues evaluate the relative effects of different traits and ecological factors on the reproductive performance (litter size and survival) of breeding females. ScienceDaily, e! Science News. VIDEO

 

Less ferocious Tasmanian devils could help save species from extinction

Evolving to become less aggressive could be key to saving the Tasmanian devil – famed for its ferocity – from extinction, research suggests. The species is being wiped out by Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), a fatal infectious cancer spread by biting. This study found that, surprisingly, the less often a devil gets bitten, the more likely it is to become infected with the cancer. This is because they bite the tumours of the less aggressive devils and become infected. CNN, Yahoo News, The Guardian.

 

Dietary habits of spotted hyena change during Christian fasting period in northern Ethiopia

Many Christians give up certain foods for Lent, but the authors of this paper discovered these changes in human diet have a dramatic impact on the diet of wild animals. In Ethiopia, members of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church stop eating meat and dairy products during a 55-day fast before Easter. This study indicates that, as a result, spotted hyenas too change their eating habits – from scavenging waste from butchers and households to hunting. This article highlights the close ties that develop between man and wild populations. Podcast at Scientific American, Science Daily, Huffington Post, FrenchTribune.

 

Bird ranges shift northward, but not as fast as climate

As warmer winter temperatures become more common, one way for some animals to adjust is to shift their ranges northward. But a new study of 59 North American bird species indicates that doing so is not easy or quick—it took about 35 years for many birds to move far enough north for winter temperatures to match where they historically lived.

Image:In this undated photo provided by Cornell University, an endangered red-cockaded woodpecker clings to a tree. While other birds adjusted their migration ranges northward in response to warming winters, the red-cockaded woodpecker hasn’t moved at all. Cornell researcher Frank La Sorte said on Tuesday, March 27, 2012, they have specialized habitat needs, found only in the sandy longleaf pine forests of 11 southern states. The Guardian, Phys.org, Cornell University Chronicle.

 

Male reproductive success increases with alliance size in Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)

The findings contribute to the evolutionary framework explaining fitness benefits of cooperative behaviour among non-kin. The authors found that male bottlenose dolphins in larger alliances had greater reproductive success than males in smaller alliances or unallied males. Dolphin family Image courtesy Jo Wiszniewski. Phys.org, United Academics Magazine, AsianScientist.

 

Reproductive synchrony in a recovering bottlenecked sea turtle population

Assessing the potential for recovery in endangered species is challenging, because complementary approaches are required to detect reliable signals of positive trends.  The authors combined genetics, demography and behavioural data at three different timescales in order to assess historical and recent population changes and evidence of reproductive synchrony in a small yet recovering population of olive ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea.
ScienceDaily.

 

Nesting songbirds assess spatial heterogeneity of predatory chipmunks by eavesdropping on their vocalizations

In the study of predator/prey dynamics, knowing where the predators are can be used to adjust breeding decisions resulting in higher reproductive success rates. Emmering and Schmidt have produced this neat paper on how veeries (Catharus fuscescens, pictured) and ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) make nesting decisions. BBC Nature, Nature, ScienceDaily.

 

Demographic consequences of increased winter births in a large aseasonally breeding mammal (Bos taurus) in response to climate change

Journal of Animal Ecology Chillingham cattle image copyright Sarah BurtheExamining data for the past 60 years, the authors found the biggest change was the increasing number and proportion of Chillingham calves born during the winter. And when they compared winter births with UK Met Office weather data, they found warmer springs nine months earlier were responsible. ScienceDaily, Conservation Magazine.

 

Scales of orientation, directed walks and movement path structure in sharks

Journal of Animal Ecology Vol 80 Iss 4 Black tipped shark courtesy Yannis PapastamatiouHow do sharks know where to go? The authors re-analysed tracking data from three shark species to determine whether they were using directed walks, and if so, over which spatial scales. ScienceDaily.

 

Pterin-based ornamental coloration predicts yolk antioxidant levels in female striped plateau lizards (Sceloporus virgatus)

The authors' research is the first example of a positive relationship between female ornamentation and yolk antioxidants in reptiles. ScienceDaily.

 

 

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