Clues to the Past – What fossils tell us about ancient animal behavior

Hundreds of millions of years ago, Earth was teeming with life. Since humans weren’t around back then, we have to rely on fossils for snapshots into that world. Fossils give clues on how animals and their behaviors have evolved throughout geological time and can help with today’s conservation efforts. But what can fossils tell us about animal behavior, and when were some of the earliest behaviors? That’s a mystery worth digging into!

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Can a meme save a species?

Memes are everywhere. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; the world of social media is bursting with amusing images embellished with a witty caption. Memes stay on the pulse of changing cultures and reflect social ideas and current events. But can they also help encourage the protection of species that don’t commonly garner media headlines?

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Bats Can Chat! Bats use echolocation to identify group members

Halloween has passed, but we can still have fun talking about bats! Bats use echolocation to find food, but could there be more hiding in these calls? Social bats search for prey together to reduce the time and energy it takes to find food. Besides, teamwork makes the dream work! Bats need to identify group members to know who is searching and where they have been. Echolocation calls are distinct between individuals allowing bats to discriminate among groupmates.

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Does wearing a face mask make humans less scary to tree sparrows?

Environmental conditions can change quite quickly. In this case, due to the global pandemic of COVID-19 we’ve all been wearing masks when we venture outside. How might this sudden change in our appearance affect animals that frequently live amongst us? Find out how Eurasian tree sparrows responded to wearing masks in two provinces of Sichuan, China.

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Life in the City – Humans alter city habitats for plants and animals

Cites are ecosystems, just like a forest, desert, and prairie are ecosystems. As human populations grow and move to urban areas, cities expand into other ecosystems. Plants and animals must adjust to the rapid changes that result. Humans are the biggest threat to organisms, but why are cities challenging environments for plants and animals? Let’s learn more about one of the largest and growing ecosystems on land… cities!

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Fear the dead: Animal carcasses attract life and death for the wider food web

On the 26th August 2016, as storm clouds gather above the alpine plateau of Hardangervidda in southcentral Norway, a herd of wild tundra reindeer grouped together for protection. A split second later, in a moment of miserable luck, the herd fell to the ground dead, having been struck by a bolt of lightning. Norwegian ecologists took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study how the mass die-off of 323 reindeer has since impacted the local ecology and food web.

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Space Invaders? Exotic Bees in the Urban Landscape

One up and coming target for bee conservation has been the urban landscape, as some recent findings have indicated that cities can maintain diverse bee communities. Though on the surface these findings seem promising for bee conservation, many of these studies do not actually address whether this is a positive thing for native bees. One group of scientists decided to delve further into this topic by looking at the effects of urbanization on bee species. Specifically, they wanted to find out whether exotic bees, including the European honeybee, were found more abundantly in cities and other urban areas than in rural communities and how their presence affected native bees.

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Stop and Smell the Flowers: Color-changing spiders blend in to avoid being eaten

Can you think of any animals that can change colors? I bet a spider didn’t come to mind! Believe it or not, crab spiders can change colors from white to yellow depending on the color of the flower they occupy. When an insect arrives at a spider-inhabited flower, the crab spiders use their long legs to grab their meal. Matching the color of their flower may allow crab spiders to hide from their prey and predators. Stop, smell the flowers, and see if you can spot some crab spiders!

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Large Carnivores on the Rise

Many large carnivores have been increasing in number along with people, which could lead to more conflicts between the carnivores and people. Wolves in particular are starting to make a comeback after their population sizes were reduced due to hunting and loss of prey. It is important to bring wolves back because they play an important role in maintaining the balance of an ecosystem by controlling the population size of their prey. Their reintroduction and increasing population sizes have led to research to figure out how wolves and people can live peacefully together.

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