What do those cute little baby sea turtles do after their epic spring to the water? Until very recently, we simply didn’t know. But a new study reveals for the first time just what the young turtles have been up to in the Pacific – and it shows that they are just as determined and tenacious as they were on land, fighting strong currents to reach their preferred feeding grounds.


Habitat Disturbance leaves a genetic legacy

Featured image from Herrera and Bazaga (2016)  Ecology and Evolution.

Habitat disturbance, be that logging, agriculture, or roads and infrastructure, can be hugely damaging to biodiversity. But even after the visible wounds have healed, the genetic scars of past disturbance remain in the genome, according to results from a two-decade-long study of shrubs in Spain.

The effects of habitat disturbance on plants can be seen in the genomes of the next generation, a new study reports for the first time. The team compared the genetic and epigenetic profiles of shrubs (Lavandula latifolia) that had been experimentally disturbed 20 years previously, with those left undisturbed for more than 50 years.

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The costs of a big brain outweigh the benefits

Featured image is in the public domain.

Brains rather than braun may have guided our ancestors out of Africa, but new research suggests primates’ big brains are no longer the assets they once were.

A study published in the journal Evolution reports that larger brains are directly related to an increased risk of extinction in modern primates. Researchers led by Alejandro Gonzalez-Voyer at Doñana Biological Station in Spain, compared published data on 474 species of mammal, with their IUCN Redlist categorisations, to find out how different biological traits influence extinction risk. The team found that larger brains tend to be associated with a longer gestation period, longer weaning period and smaller litter sizes, all of which indirectly increase extinction risk.

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Ancient fossil arachnid reveals the origins of spiders

Featured image from Garwood et al (2016), open access.

A new fossil discovered in France promises to shed light on the murky evolutionary history of spiders. The rare three-dimensional fossil of the new species shows that it is nearly, but not quite, a spider, lacking the key silk-spinning adaptation that defines spiders. This 300-million-year-old arachnid is our closest view yet of the ancestor to all spiders.
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Cuckolding common in nature, but rare in humans

Featured image by Tomfriedel, used under a creative commons licence from Wikimedia.

Fathers can breath a sigh of relief. Although biologists have found cuckolding, where one male unwittingly raises the offspring of another male, is common in animal societies, it appears humans are one of the few exceptions.

A recent review published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution on 5th April claims that across modern and ancient human societies, women tended to be faithful to their partners.

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Ancient Beast was part-sabretooth, part-otter

Featured image used under a creative commons license from MorphoSource.

The extinct carnivore, Kolponomos, looked like a bear, and bit like a sabre-toothed tiger.

A group of carnivores that went extinct around 20 million years ago looked superficially like modern bears, but new research shows their bite was more similar to sabre-toothed cats. Known as Kolponomos, these extinct bears were thought to feed on shelled organisms, like modern otters, but with few fossils to go on, their diet and lifestyle has remained contentious.

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Honeybees treat their mates for STDs

Featured image is in the public domain.

Male honeybees produce antimicrobial chemicals in their semen to protect new queens from a fungal disease.

Sex always comes with the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, so male honeybees have evolved to produce antimicrobial chemicals in their semen. The fungus Nosema apis is a specialised pathogen of honeybees, which can be transmitted to new queens when they mate, but new research shows that male honeybees’ semen has powerful antifungal activity, disrupting the lifecycle of the Nosema spores and reducing their viability.
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Social Supergene is a Green Beard for Fire Ants

Featured image is used under a creative commons license from Wikimedia commons. Original image from AntWeb.

Scientists have found the final missing link answering a long-standing question about how social behaviour evolves. New research shows that a social supergene in fire ants coordinates a host of biological processes and behaviours, that ultimately determine how sociable their colonies are, and who they choose to be their queen.

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