Two nights in Dubbvegas and Rebecca Recommends #10

Some habits are more difficult to break than others. For example, I haven't blogged for almost three months but I still eat when I'm bored.

It has been a busy few months, though: school holidays in mid-July, our engagement party in late-July (my partner and I got engaged at the beginning of May, but the earliest we could celebrate with family and friends was almost three months later!), friends coming to stay for uni intensive schools throughout mid-August, preparing for my Confirmation of Candidature (a six-month milestone for postgraduate research students) at the end of August, travelling to Griffith with my partner to care for my mother for a week in mid-September - we just got through the floodwaters before the Newell Highway between Parkes and Forbes was closed only minutes later, literally - and then an unplanned (and expensive!) two-night pit stop in Dubbo (aka Dubbvegas) on the way home to replace the radiator in my car.

While on the subject of Dubbo, I can highly recommend Crowley's Automotive if you ever find yourself in need of mechanical help, but I would never stay at Quest Apartment Hotel ever again - I'd rather sleep under the nearby LH Ford Bridge beside the Macquarie River. It started out well enough - we checked-in early on a Sunday and were given an upgrade to a one-bedroom apartment as no studio apartments were ready, and I explained to the receptionist that we would probably need to stay a second night but had to wait for the mechanic's verdict on Monday morning, so would confirm around expected check-out time. She checked availability: "no problem". The following morning, the mechanic said he would let us know by 11:00 am at the latest with regard to sourcing a radiator overnight for my Honda MDX (no easy feat, by the way), so I popped down to reception and arranged a late check-out time and re-iterated that is was likely we'd have to stay another night: "no problem". We finally heard from the mechanic and a new radiator was on its way from Sydney and would arrive first thing Tuesday morning so, at 10:53 am, I advised reception that we would be requiring accommodation for another night only to be told: "Sorry, ma'am but all our rooms are booked." What the...? When I dared to challenge their lack of customer service, I was curtly informed (and this is the exact phrase): "We are in the business of selling hotel rooms." There was a half-hearted offer from the receptionist to browse the internet and find alternative accommodation on our behalf, which provoked in me a sudden urge to leap over the counter and punch him in the face, but I resisted and declined his offer and we found alternative accommodation ourselves. The good news was, the radiator did arrive early the following morning, thanks largely to the efforts of Patrick Crowley, and we were on the road again at lunch time and home in Armidale later that afternoon.

Oh, and while we were stuck in Dubbvegas, we had some great coffee at Press, some tasty fish and chips at the Milestone Hotel (and while my partner's steak was cooked perfectly to his liking the "beetroot relish" was nothing more than some mashed up beetroot), and truly amazing burgers at the Old Bank Restaurant. But the highlight had nothing to do with food: it was The Book Connection, Dubbo's independent family bookstore that boasts "books on a large range of subjects from agriculture to zoology". Need I say more? A picture speaks a thousands words, after all...

I want all the books.

I want all the books.

Yes, this blog may be titled Zoological Musings, but I've always promoted it as containing news from the zoological, entomological and sciences worlds, as well as life in general. That last paragraph was the "life in general" bit.

Now, onto the other stuff...


Trophy hunting of lions can conserve the species

One year after the worldwide controversy when an American dentist killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, the DICE (the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology) team says hunting works but only when hunting companies are given long-term land management rights.

Cecil the lion | Daughter#3/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Cecil the lion | Daughter#3/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Source/read more University of Kent



A new dragonfly species discovered in Brazil

Diogo Vilela and colleagues discovered a new species of dragonfly in the genus Erythrodiplax (Odonata: Libellulidae) in southwestern Brazil, and they described it in the journal Zootaxa. They started studying it in 2011 at a palm swamp area in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais State, and after comparing it with several species from the same genus, they confirmed in 2014 that it was new and started the description.

Source/read more Entomology Today



Fate of turtles and tortoises affected more by habitat than temperature

Habitat degradation poses a greater risk to the survival of turtles and tortoises than rising global temperatures, according to new research.

Source/read more University of Bristol



More than one in ten UK species threatened with extinction, new study finds

Climate change, urban expansion and agricultural intensification blamed for risk to some of Britain’s best loved species.

Water vole | Peter G Trimming/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

Water vole | Peter G Trimming/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

Source/read more University of Exeter



Tsetse flies are strange and dangerous insects

Tsetse flies are the scourge of Central Africa. The flies are vectors for the disease nagana, also known as African animal trypanosomiasis (AAT), in wild and domestic animals, and a similar disease among humans that is known as sleeping sickness, or human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). The agents of the diseases are trypanosomes, protozoa that live within the tsetse fly. Parts of Africa are uninhabitable because of the presence of tsetse flies and their effects on people and livestock.

Source/read more Entomology Today



The moral cost of cats

Pete Marra is haunted by cats. He sees them everywhere: slinking down alleys, crouched under porches, glaring at him out of wild, starved eyes.

People assume that Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and author of the recent book Cat Wars, hates cats. This is not the case. “I love cats,” he says, calling them “fascinating, magnificent animals,” that seem to have a “freakish love for me.” He’s even considered a pet cat, despite being mildly allergic. “This is the thing people don’t realize,” Marra told me recently at a café near his office in Washington, D.C. “I’m both a wild animal advocate and a domestic animal advocate. If my mother thought I wasn’t supporting cats, she’d be flipping in her grave.”

Source/read more Smithsonian



Junkie ants show that insects can be addicts, too

The temporary euphoria associated with opioids comes at a steep price: heroin, oxycodone, opium, morphine and other painkilling drugs are some of the highly addictive culprits fueling the drug epidemic that is sweeping America. On average, opioids claim the lives of 78 people in the U.S. each day. Now, in a bid to understand more about substance abuse and how it affects people neurochemically, researchers are turning to some unlikely addicts: Ants.

Source/read more Smithsonian



What is a trophic cascade?

Emergence of the ‘trophic cascade’ concept was an important step toward the ways in which ecologists have come to view and understand the structure and dynamics of populations, communities, and ecosystems. The term has since resonated strongly with scientists, managers, and even the general public because of its relevance to a range of topics in theoretical and applied ecology, ecosystem management, and biological conservation [1, 2]. Yet, the term has also been variously defined (Box 1), thus resulting in an increasingly inconsistent usage, much as terms such as ‘habitat’ [3 and ‘keystone species’ [4 were loosely used in the past. Accordingly, the study of trophic cascades has come to an important juncture. The thrust to resolve mechanisms, to expand the spatial and temporal scales of analysis, and to broaden the number of studied systems and species considered, creates the need for a clear definition, from which testable criteria for trophic cascades follow. Our objective here is to advance a historically grounded definition that offers easy and consistent interpretation, thereby leading to more coherent conclusions from research and a broader utility of published research for scientists, managers, and the general public.

Trends in the Number of Articles Published on Trophic Cascades by Ecosystem Type. Around the turn of the 21st century, trophic cascades research shifted from being freshwater dominated to being dominated by studies in both terrestrial and marine systems. The articles counted in this figure are based on a Web of Science search for articles with topic (title, abstract, or keyword) ‘trophic cascade(s)’ published between 1965 and 2015. Each of the 2244 articles returned in this search was categorized according to ecosystem type using the article title, journal, and abstract. We used the ‘other’ category in cases when the ecosystem type was not clear, the article was purely theoretical, or the article covered multiple ecosystem types.

Trends in the Number of Articles Published on Trophic Cascades by Ecosystem Type. Around the turn of the 21st century, trophic cascades research shifted from being freshwater dominated to being dominated by studies in both terrestrial and marine systems. The articles counted in this figure are based on a Web of Science search for articles with topic (title, abstract, or keyword) ‘trophic cascade(s)’ published between 1965 and 2015. Each of the 2244 articles returned in this search was categorized according to ecosystem type using the article title, journal, and abstract. We used the ‘other’ category in cases when the ecosystem type was not clear, the article was purely theoretical, or the article covered multiple ecosystem types.



The call of the dung

Like many other insects, vinegar flies produce pheromones to call their conspecifics to an interesting food source. A research team of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, demonstrated in a new study that the flies’ frass also contains these pheromones. Fruits that have been covered by the insects’ fecal excretions seem to be especially attractive to other flies. These fruits are probably a more easily digestible food after many flies have been feeding on them. The new results are a first step toward understanding the importance of feces in the communication of vinegar flies.

Source/read more Max-Planck-Gesellschaft



Eight new stiletto fly species discovered in Australia

Two new genera and eight new species of stiletto flies have been discovered in Australia, and are described in the journal ZooKeys.

Adult male Zelothrix yeatesi sp. n.; Warrumbungle National Park, New South Wales | Shaun L. Winterton/ZooKeys

Adult male Zelothrix yeatesi sp. n.; Warrumbungle National Park, New South Wales | Shaun L. Winterton/ZooKeys

Source/read more Entomology Today



Is it too late to save Red Sea sharks?

As the first known person to dive into several coral systems in the Red Sea, Julia Spaet expected to encounter some surprises. Over several years, she sighted dolphins, rays, moray eels, sea turtles, loads of fish and the most colorful smattering of coral species she’d ever witnessed. But the most surprising thing was what she didn’t see: sharks.

Source/read more Smithsonian



Wildlife monitoring: Lure gamers into citizen science

Ecologists who are interested in using Pokémon Go to find new species (see Nature 535, 323–324 (2016) and F. de Oliveira Roque Nature 537, 34; 2016) could also adopt the gameplay concept to set up wildlife-monitoring schemes that are fun for the public.

Source/read more Nature



Science and inequality

A special issue of Nature explores the study of inequality, and how socio-economic divides affect the science workforce.

Source/read more Nature



Australian tree range threatened

Climate change could shrink the geographic range of most of Australia's eucalyptus species within the next 60 years.

Source/read more Nature



Climate change and ecological science

One dominant paradigm of the ecological literature at the present time is what I would like to call the Climate Change Paradigm. Stated in its clearest form, it states that all temporal ecological changes now observed are explicable by climate change. The test of this hypothesis is typically a correlation between some event like a population decline, an invasion of a new species into a community, or the outbreak of a pest species and some measure of climate. Given clever statistics and sufficient searching of many climatic measurements with and without time lags, these correlations are often sanctified by p< 0.05. Should we consider this progress in ecological understanding?

Source/read more Ecological Rants



Gut bacteria explain insects’ tolerance to a toxic diet

Scientists at the Universitat de València’s Cavanilles Institute have studied the microbial communities of toxic plant feeders in the Albufera lake in Valencia, Spain. Aside from explaining the insects’ tolerance to a toxic diet, their findings may have applications in bioremediation: a waste management technique that involves the use of organisms to remove or neutralise pollutants from a contaminated materials.

Source/read more R&I World



Plectocarpon lichenum

Lichens can be found all over the world, even in the most barren and inhospitable environments (even near active volcanoes). They grow on exposed surface like moss, but they are very different to those plants. Lichens are the outcome of a highly successful conglomerate resulting from the fusion of a pair of very different lineages of fungi combined with a photosynthetic alga. Together they form a beneficial tripartite that has allowed lichen to colonise environments all over the globe.

Source/read more Parasite of the Day



Effect of some honeybee diseases on seasonal mortality of Apis mellifera intermissa in Algeria apiaries

With a view to identify the pathogens and to establish the role of these pathogens in regulation of the density of honey bee population occurring in the apiaries of the area concerned samples of honeybee were collected from the beekeepers in some parts of central Algeria It is revealed that Nosema sp., Varroa destrutor, Peanibacillus larvae are associated with the disease manifestation in honey bees. The presence of Nosema sp., Varroa destrutor, Peanibacillus larvae was analyzed using standard OIE methods. Spores of Paenibacillus larvae were detected in 56.6 % in winter 52.32 % in spring. 29.33 % in autumn and 11.25 % in summer. Nosema infestation was recorded in 47.91 % bee individuals during spring. Varroa infestation rate was maximum 12.57 % in summer and lowest 3.44 % in spring. Analysis of data indicates that Boumerdes and Tipaza, diseases induced mortality exceeds 10 % in honeybee. There exists a significant correlation between Nosema disease and mortalities in honeybees. Seasons play significant role, irrespective of pathogens, in disease manifestation.



How the Australian galah got its name in a muddle

Galahs are the pink and grey cockatoos that are one of the most familiar of all Australian birds. They’ve been at the centre of a curious debate: what should their scientific name really be?

It’s a tale that spans centuries and continents, and has clues hidden in museums, diaries of 19th century travellers and evolution’s own diary of DNA sequences.

When biologists formally publish a scientific description of a new species, they give it a unique scientific name that is forever linked to a single, preserved specimen in a natural history collection. This specimen is known as the holotype.

The galah’s scientific name is Eolophus roseicapilla. Its holotype was collected in Australia in 1801 by biologists on the Expedition led by France’s Nicolas Baudin and is held in the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris.

Galah | Richard Taylor/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

Galah | Richard Taylor/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

Source/read more CSIRO



It’s not all about tigers and criminals – illegal wildlife trade responses need nuance

Responses to illegal wildlife trade need to be more nuanced and not only focused on high-profile species if we are to truly tackle the problem, say researchers.

Across the globe, the illegal wildlife trade threatens thousands of species, including fish, fungi and plants, along with the more familiar ‘charismatic’ animals such as tigers, rhinoceroses and elephants.

Despite widespread recognition of the problem, science and policy has concentrated on a few high-profile species.

Source/read more Lancaster University



Edible crickets can be reared on weeds and cassava plant tops

To become a sustainable alternative to meat, reared crickets must be fed feeds other than the chicken feed that is most commonly used today. Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences now present a study which shows that there are weeds and agricultural by-products that actually work as single ingredients in feeds for crickets. The study was conducted in Cambodia, where many children suffer from malnutrition and where the need for cheap protein is large.

Survival in crickets fed chicken feed or one of twelve weeds, agricultural and food industry by-products for 70 days. The twelve treatments were single product diets. Standard error was for cassava tops 5.6, chicken feed 5.7, Cleome rutidosperma 5.0, Cleome viscosa 3.5, Synedrela nodiflora 4.1, residue from mungbean sprout production 5.2, Commelina benghalensis 4.2, spent grain 6.1, water spinach 4.2, rice bran 4.2,  Boerhavia diffusa 2.5, Alternanthera sessilis 8.1 and Amaranthus spinosus 3.4.

Survival in crickets fed chicken feed or one of twelve weeds, agricultural and food industry by-products for 70 days. The twelve treatments were single product diets. Standard error was for cassava tops 5.6, chicken feed 5.7, Cleome rutidosperma 5.0, Cleome viscosa 3.5, Synedrela nodiflora 4.1, residue from mungbean sprout production 5.2, Commelina benghalensis 4.2, spent grain 6.1, water spinach 4.2, rice bran 4.2,  Boerhavia diffusa 2.5, Alternanthera sessilis 8.1 and Amaranthus spinosus 3.4.



How natural selection acted on one penguin species over the past quarter century

Biologists of all stripes attest to evolution, but have debated its details since Darwin’s day. Since changes arise and take hold slowly over many generations, it is daunting to track this process in real time for long-lived creatures.

Source/read more University of Washington