Zoology in the News

This post highlights zoology-related articles which have featured recently in the news.

King Penguin. Credit: Chris Pearson
King Penguin. Credit: Chris Pearson

A long running study on king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) shows that tagged penguins have increased death rates and lower reproductive success. The results, published in Nature, supports some biologists’ fears that banding penguins could impact negatively on the birds and affect the results of their studies. The paper also raises ethical concerns regarding research using banded penguins to examine the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. Read the news articles on NatureNews and the BBC.

Old leaf cutter ants “retire” to carrying leaves when their jaws become too blunt to cut leaves efficiently, letting younger members take over the job. The research is published in Behaviour Ecology and Sociobiology, and suggests that wear and tear can be a significant problem for insects as well as the larger animals. Read the news article on the BBC.

Birds living in cities may be evolving as a result of their urban environment. Researchers publishing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B have found that great tits (Parus major) are able to change their tune depending on the level of background noise, and that urban birds sing and call at higher frequencies than birds in the country. Read the news article in the New Scientist.

New genetic evidence suggests that African elephants are indeed two different species, forest (Loxodonta cyclotis) and savanna (Loxodonta africana). Researchers sequenced and compared the nuclear genomes of both types of African elephant and also the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) and mastodon (Mammut americanum). Their results, published in PLoS Biology, show that the African elephants diverged into separate species around the same time as the African and Asian elephants. Read the news article on Nature News.

by Anne Braae

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