Episode 35: Beetles Pretending to be Ants

This week it’s a great story about “ant-loving” (i.e. ant parasitizing) beetles that hide among army ants by looking and acting and smelling like one of them. This has evolved independently multiple times, even though the rove beetles are a very old group with lots of time diverge.

Maruyama, M., and J. Parker 2017. Deep-Time Convergence in Rove Beetle Symbionts of Army Ants Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.030

The puzzle this week is called Andy’s Heart. Enjoy!

Episode 34: “I’m Not Left-Handed, Either!”

What is the advantage of being right/left-handed? How does that change if you’re a predator attacking with a group? And how can a fish have handedness in the first place? Relax. All will be answered.

Today’s paper is:

Kurvers, R. H. J. M., S. Krause, P. E. Viblanc, J. E. Herbert-Read, P. Zaslansky, P. Domenici, S. Marras, J. F. Steffensen, M. B. S. Svendsen, A. D. M. Wilson, P. Couillaud, K. M. Boswell, and J. Krause 2016. The Evolution of Lateralization in Group Hunting Sailfish Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.044

And the decent puzzle is called “ten gloves.”

Episode 33: Can Dark Feathers Protect Birds from Pollution?

You can’t see the heavy metals in this picture, but they’re there. So how is this pigeon supposed to deal with that?

Feathers are made darker by melanin, which is known to bind heavy metals. In this study, researchers test the idea that darker birds might be protected from things like lead by the ability to store that crap in their feathers.

Chatelain, M., J. Gasparini, and A. Frantz. 2016. Do trace metals select for darker birds in urban areas? An experimental exposure to lead and zinc. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13170

This week’s decent puzzle is called “Two Trees.”

Episode 32: Why do Seals have Whiskers?

Harbour Seal (Photo by Mark Dodge)

Whiskers are specialized hairs that are especially sensitive to touch. Your cat uses them to know when it’s walking along a wall in the dark. So why would a swimming seal need them? Oh, wouldn’t you like to know! Have a listen. I guarantee the seals will impress you.

The paper is:

Niesterok B., Y. Krüger, S. Wieskotten, G. Dehnhardt, and W. Hanke. 2015. Hydrodynamic detection and localization of artificial flatfish breathing currents by harbour seals (Phoca vitulina). Journal of Experimental Biology. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.148676.