In the Origin of Species, Darwin described a “great Tree of Life” which is “fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.”
Ever since then biologist have been trying to describe such a tree. And it should surprise no one that the recent focus on microbial ecology has expanded the Tree considerably.
Read about it at the New York Times or in the paper over at Nature Microbiology .
Hug et al. 2016
Darwin’s tree, in concept and in the only figure published in his Origin of Species.
Over at the blog Small Pond Science is a really interesting and thought provoking post about understanding details of specific organisms in their environment vs. looking for those same patterns and processes on a global scale.
Do well planned and well executed experiments to test theories change the ecological world? Or should we instead rely on the large splash made by meta analysis and reviews?
And most importantly, what should a young scientist trying to make their career focus their time and effort on? Which has bigger impact?
Read about it here!
It’s not an anaconda. Nor is it the piraña.
It’s the golden mussel. No. Seriously.
Invasive species killing local organisms is nothing new. In fact, it’s almost in the definition of “invasive species”. But this mussel has been increasing at an alarming rate int he amazonian waters, and it is killing off existing species and destroying its habitats.
But, combatting this guy, is tougher than one would think. How do you kill the mussel that is destroying the biodiversity of the Amazon without… destroying the biodiversity of the Amazon.
Enter Marcela Uliano da Silva, (PhD student at Federal University of Rio de Janerio) who is finding new ways to target just the golden mussel by using it’s genome.
Read about it over at ZY!
Antarctica has one of the worlds driest deserts, which it turns out is perfect for preserving seals. For thousands of years. For next summer this means a new mummy movie, Seal Mummies!
But seriously, Paleontologists Paul Koch and Emily Brault from UCSC are using these mummies for something besides next summer’s blockbuster. They are looking at the long term ecological impacts of the changing climate in Antartica. What’s more, there are a TON of seal mummies just lying around. Over 500 in fact, some of them hundreds or thousands of years old. What this can tell us about the changing ecosystem is invaluable. Read about it over at Forbes.
Ecomotion Studios has been working with the Ecological Society of America to produce short animated films about some of the most influential papers of modern ecology — they’re calling it “The Animated Foundations of Ecology.” Here’s the film about Robert Paine’s famous experiment in removing the top predator of tidal pool communities, sea stars, which led to dramatically reduced diversity in the other species that shared the pools.
There’s a handful more, including on one of my favorite classic ecology papers, David Simberloff and EO Wilson’s experimental demonstration of the process by which species colonize new habitats. Go check ’em out!
Paine, R. T. 1966. Food web complexity and species diversity. American Naturalist, 65-75. doi: 10.1086/282400.
Simberloff, D. S., & Wilson, E. O. 1969. Experimental zoogeography of islands: the colonization of empty islands. Ecology, 278-296. 10.2307/1934856.
Over at Huffington Post, Marc Bekoff, recently wrote an article lambasting Christopher Filardi for collecting a Moustached Kingfisher, a rare bird endemic in the Solomon Islands.
Now, there are two sides to this particular controversy, and I am going to do my darnest NOT to pick one.
Side one: How dare you kill that kingfisher!
The HP article criticized killing a rare bird for collection as the opposite of a conservation effort. It is likened to hunting endangered species, and compassionate conservation. (RadioLab anyone? Don’t mind if I do…)
Side two: You need these kinds of specimen for conservation. And biology.
An excellent public post was written by my friend Josef Uyeda here.
Additionally, Dr. Filardi himself responded justifying his decision, and why specimens are important over at the Audobon society.
Was it right or was it wrong? You decide.