The silence of the microfauna

A generation ago Rachel Carson warned us of bird die-offs from pesticides in the classic “Silent Spring”. Now, a new silence might be rocking the world, and causing an increasingly creepy silence: flying insects are dying at an alarming rate and in staggering amounts. A study published last fall documented a 76% decline in total seasonal biomass of insects in Germany, and speculated how widespread their result might be.

Unfortunately, that question is difficult to even approach because of another problem: a global decline of field naturalists who study these phenomena.

Want to learn more about this awkward intersection? Read about it here!

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Who’s a smart bee?

In the ongoing question of “what makes human’s special?”, biologist have recently demonstrated that honey bees have the ability to conceptualize zero.

The bees in the study were trained, one group to fly towards displays with higher quantities of black shapes, and one towards cards with fewer shapes. Once the second group was trained to recognize “lower” number of black spots, they introduced blank cards. The bees were then able to recognize that the absence of black spots is less than low number of spots.

This phenomenon is referred to as the “numerical-distance-effect” and has been observed in children and primates. So bees have at least the conceptual ability of a smll child.

Good job bees! Read more about it here.

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Hagfish Take Weeks to Recover from Sliming Someone

If you see a hagfish don’t anger it. Under attack, these bottom scavengers and hunters releases thick, clear slime in astonishing quantities. Potential predators back off quickly when presented with the slime, because it clogs their gills. The hagfish itself escape their own mucus that they tie their bodies into a knot and scrape it off (A highway in Oregon was harder to clean up after a truck full of hagfish crashed there last year.)

However, it turns out that this mucus is a precious resource for a hagfish. After sliming a predator, the fish can take nearly a month to refill its slime glands. So leave the poor slime monsters alone.

Read about it here.

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Wildlife is adjusting life in the big city

And I for one am wondering how the hell they do it! I just moved to a bigger city and I love it, but I’m finding my time a little stretched thin.

And I have opposable thumbs, and grocery stores. I can’t imagine how wildlife are doing it. Are they better at adulting than I am?

Read about how mountain lions are handling it here.

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Mystery Parrot Disease Virus Identified

A disease that has terrified parrot breeders for the last few decades has been identified as a virus that is new to science. This discovery will allow scientists to find the source of this virus, to control its spread, develop a vaccine and to find a cure.

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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Building a backup bee

The director of bee biology for the Wonderful Company, Gordon Wardell, is working on a magnificent experiment. He is trying, across a vast grove of pistachios, to develop an alternative insect pollinator.

With the decline of honey bee populations (due to many things, including (and likely prominently) because of viruses!), the need for an alternate has become critical. Not just for pistachios, but for almonds, which rely exclusively on honeybees for pollination.

Want to know more about this crazy idea (trust me, this one is a long shot)? Read about it here.

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The promiscuous process driving antibiotic resistance

“While overuse of antibiotics has been fingered as the driver of resistance to these drugs, the contribution of bacterial sex plays an underappreciated role, one that could bedevil efforts to fight antimicrobial resistance.”

Want to hear more about this sexy and interesting outcome of bacteria doing it*?

Read more here!

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*I’m pretty sure that’s how the song goes:

Birds do it.

Bees do it.

Bacteria do it and it drives the evolution of resistance.

Pretty sure.