Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

Category Archives: Ecology

Using helpers, desert birds hedge their bets to weather variable conditions

Unpredictable environments can help explain the evolution of cooperative behavior, according to a decade-long study of birds in the Kalahari Desert. The research showed that white-browed sparrow-weavers (Plocepasser mahali) work to raise the offspring of other birds as a strategy … Continue reading

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Emotional associations, more than knowledge, determine how much people care about the deep sea

With new technological advances in deep-sea mining, the ocean floor’s trove of valuable metals and rare earth elements is coming within reach of commercial mining operations. The impending reality of this practice, and its associated environmental risks, raises the question … Continue reading

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A popular household fern may be the first known eusocial plant

Staghorn ferns are popular houseplants, sporting long, antler-like fronds that poke out from a brown, tissue-papery base. They may also be the first known example of a plant that exhibits a type of social organization—that is, the first plant thought … Continue reading

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How an animal’s teeth can reveal where it’s been

  A careful measurement of isotope ratios in animals’ teeth could offer a new way to closely track their movements, according to a recent study that showed how the approach would work in Mongolian sheep and goat herds. Tooth enamel … Continue reading

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Model suggests how evolution shapes ecological networks among species

The natural world is filled with networks. Predator and prey, flower and pollinator—each interacting pair forms a link in a networked community of organisms. Now, a French research team has developed a model that explores how evolution may help shape … Continue reading

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Insects, not just wind, offer an ancient mechanism of orchid seed dispersal

On Yakushima Island, at the southern tip of Japan, an orchid employs a very unusual strategy to disperse its seeds. Crickets visit the orchid at night, eat its fruits, and defecate the seeds in the vicinity. The discovery, reported recently … Continue reading

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Satellite monitoring may help preserve the Chesapeake Bay by improving farming practices

  Restoring the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, has for decades proven to be a fraught enterprise, beset by the interests of researchers, farmers, anglers, multiple governments, and a host of others. A new approach, recently reported in Remote … Continue reading

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Deep-sea mussels still show biological rhythms tracking sunlight, tides

Like many land animals, marine organisms follow daily and seasonal clocks—in the water, those clocks are set by the cadence of the sun and the moon. But researchers hadn’t known if deep-sea creatures also exhibit biological rhythms, tucked away in … Continue reading

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Seasonality shapes coevolution of parasites and hosts

Parasites and their hosts coevolve in an arms race influenced by environmental conditions. Seasonal change, for example, can shape the course of evolution, but precisely how has been something of a mystery. A recent study used lab experiments and mathematical … Continue reading

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Trends in conservation funding track popular narratives about the illegal wildlife trade

Trends in conservation funding are changing, according to a recent study in World Development. “We see a shift toward funding conservation work that’s increasingly about combatting wildlife trafficking,” says coauthor Jared Margulies, a human-environment geographer at the University of Alabama … Continue reading

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Variation in a single gene increases plant yield in groups but not in pairs

Groups of diverse plant species often produce more seeds than monocultures. But whether plants ramp up yield in response to genetically distinct, direct neighbors, as opposed to a broader neighborhood of diverse plants, remains an open question in ecology. “It’s … Continue reading

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