Discovered: Rapid fire evolution in a Connecticut pond, why pesticides are killing the bees, the best new species on the planet, and butterflies have gotten snobby.
- Watch years evolution happen in this pond. Due to a feedback loop created by dams in a Connecticut pond, science discovered how an entire species of fish has evolved. "People have long accepted that ecology shapes evolution, but it has been less clear how evolution can shape our ecology, and do so in a relatively short time frame," explains researcher David Post. "In this case, we see a cascade of evolution that was propagated throughout the food web within the last three centuries." Because of the way the dams changed the water, the fish had to change their eating habits. "Natural selection favored survival of fish with smaller mouths and gills with filters more closely spaced that helped them harvest the smaller plankton," adds researcher Matthew R. Walsh. "This, in turn, drove genetic changes in the rates of population growth of Daphnia, and these two changes then determine amount of algae present in lakes," he continues. There you have it, rapid-fire evolution. [Yale]
- Why pesticides were so bad for the bees. Remember when science figured out that a very popular pesticide was deadly for the bee population, possibly causing those mysterious hive collapses? Well, now they know why. (Besides the whole poisonous thing.) These chemicals turned bees into picky eaters. "In other words, the bees preferred to only feed on sweeter nectar and refused nectars of lower sweetness that they would normally feed on and that would have provided important sustenance for the colony," explains researcher Daren Eiri. "In addition, bees typically recruit their nestmates to good food with waggle dances, and we discovered that the treated bees also danced less."And since honey bees bring back food to the rest of the colony, this was changing the entire eating habits of the community. "Exposure to amounts of pesticide formerly considered safe may negatively affect the health of honey bee colonies," explains researcher James Nieh. No more pesticides, then? [UC San Diego]
- The best new species on the planet. Science has decided to rank the top 10 best new creatures found on this here earth. Science says it is doing this for the sake of raising awareness, or something. "The top 10 is intended to bring attention to the biodiversity crisis and the unsung species explorers and museums who continue a 250-year tradition of discovering and describing the millions of kinds of plants, animals and microbes with whom we share this planet," explains researcher Quentin Wheeler. But we suspect it's because people love ranking things and telling other species they are better than some. Without further ado, our list: a sneezing monkey, a beautiful but venomous jellyfish, an underworld worm and a fungus named for a popular TV cartoon character, a night-blooming orchid, an ancient walking cactus creature, a tiny wasp, avibrant poppy, a giant millipede and a blue tarantula. Those all sound top-shelf to us. [Arizona State]
- Butterflies have gotten snobby. Dissatisfied with the food available in their locales, butterflies over the last 70 years have started migrating north, seeking the fancy geranium plant for food. Science says it has something to do with climate change. "The change in diet represents a change to the interactions between species – in this case between a butterfly and the plants that its caterpillars eat – caused by climate warming," explains researcher David Roy. But we just think they're a bunch of foodies. [Science]