Zoology in the News

Moon jellyfish. Credit: Gilles San Martin

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

Jellyfish are the most efficient swimmers of all animals, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found, as they spend the least amount of energy per mass to swim a certain distance than any other swimming animal. The study discovered that moon jellyfish use a spinning vortex of water created by each of their swimming ‘stroke’ to give them an extra push that spends no extra energy. This energy-saving technique could be useful when designing energy-efficient underwater vehicles. You can read the news story in Nature News and NewScientist.

Social networking is affected by personality in great tits, a paper published in Ecology Letters suggests. The researchers were able to track individual wild birds and their associations with one another by using unique PIT tags on them as identifiers. The study found that males that were deemed “shy” in a personality experiment appeared to have fewer but more stable and longer-lasting associations with other birds than “bold” males. Shy males also tend to associate with other shy males rather than with bold males, possibly because bold males are also more aggressive. You can read the news article in BBC Nature News.

Insects change their mating behaviour in anticipation of bad weather, according to a paper recently published in PLOS ONE. The researchers found that males of the curcurbit beetle, the true armyworm moth and the potato aphid showed a decreased response to female pheromones under conditions of falling air pressure compared to stable or increasing pressure, and the majority of the males also started copulating faster when air pressure was dropping. As such conditions are associated with heavy rains and strong winds which could cause injury or even death, these insects appear to be making their own weather forecasts based on changes in barometric pressure and adjusting their behaviour accordingly. You can read the news article in ScienceDaily.

Scientists have proved for the first time that alpine swifts can spend as long as six months at a time airborne, according to a paper published in Nature Communications. This was shown by data from 1.5-g data loggers attached to three alpine swifts in Switzerland before the birds migrated to Africa for the winter, and the data-loggers were recovered when the birds returned the following year, having recorded data on the birds’ acceleration and geographic location. The swifts were apparently able to feed and even sleep while airborne. You can read the news in NewScientist.

By Elina Rantanen

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