After 35 years of presumed extinction, Wallace’s Giant Bee has recently been re-discovered in the Moluku islands of Indonesia. Known locally as raja ofu (which translates to “king of the bees”), this veritable giant was last seen in 1981 before its re-discovery by a search team in January of this year.
In order to provide space for the infrastructure of modern living, many natural landscapes are uprooted and the animals within them displaced. While reducing habitat loss for wild animals continues to be a central goal of environmental agencies, habitat loss is not the only impact of urban sprawl.
Most people have heard the expression “the tree of life”. Depending on your background, it may give reference to a tree that offers immortality to those who eat its fruit, or be the spring from which new life emerges. In evolutionary biology, the tree of life is an analogy to describe “when” different organisms emerged over the course of our planets history and “how” those organisms are related to one another.
Janet Voight is a zoology curator at the Field Museum of Natural History, with a keen interest in octopods, clams, and other marine invertebrates. To study the ecology of these animals, she explores the depths of the ocean aboard Alvin, one of the few submersibles able to explore the deepest parts of the sea. Her participation in research cruises allowed her to observe novel octopus behavior as well as discover several new species, even genera, of animals including wood-boring clams and the closely associated flatworms that feed upon them.
Metricus paper wasps ( Polistes metricus; left top) at the University of Michigan have been trained to recognize the individual faces of a related species, the golden paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus), to avoid potential pain. Naturally, P. metricus lacks individual recognition, even among its own nest mates. With the lack of individual color variation and solitary nesting behavior of P. metricus, there has been no evolutionary need for recognition behavior to develop. This is in stark contrast to P. fuscatus (left bottom), whose unique facial patterns and communal nesting reinforces the need for individuals to recognize one another for continued cooperation. Each adult P. fuscatus’ face has a specific pattern, making each wasp uniquely recognizable. By raising individuals of these 2 species together, the normally oblivious P. metricus has gained the ability to not only recognize specific wasp faces, but to associate individual P. fuscatus images with pain and actively avoid them.
Most of us have heard the term algae used when we see that slimy green goo caked on rocks along the beach, or when we see a mold-like muck in the water of an outdoor Jacuzzi that’s overdue for a clean. You may have even heard of them in the news, with headlines reading “Dangerous algal bloom appears off the coast”. But what actually are algae? Are they plants? Fungi? Is it even alive or just some kind of aquatic debris that collects over time? And what purpose could they possibly serve?