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Higher temperatures could trigger an uptick in damselfly cannibalism


As youngsters, damselflies sometimes engage in good old-fashioned cannibalism, when larger nymphs make a meal out of smaller ones. A new study shows that rising temperatures could exacerbate this phenomenon.

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A warmer climate could put some damselflies in distress, as others get bigger and hungrier.

Because of differences in hatching time, nymphs — the immature form of the insects — vary in size. Sometimes when ponds are overcrowded, other food options are scarce or size differences are significant, bigger, older nymphs nosh on the little nymphs. While temperature doesn’t typically affect when damselflies hatch, it does affect how fast they grow.

So a team at the University of Toronto tested whether a warmer world would also be a damselfly-eat-damselfly one. Using damselfly nymphs (Lestes congener) hatched in the lab, researchers put nymphs of various sizes in two different temperature environments, one a balmy 18° Celsius and the other a toastier 24° Celsius.

Damselflies in the hotter setting displayed bigger differences in body size, higher activity levels and increased cannibalism rates. Both size extremes and more frequent foraging probably contribute to the increase in intraspecific dining tendencies, the researchers write May 16 in Biology Letters.

Animals,, Technology

Trackers may tip a warbler’s odds of returning to its nest

By Helen Thompson 2:30pm, May 5, 2017
Geolocator devices that help track migrating birds could also hamper migration survival or timing.

Big dads carry weight among wandering albatrosses

By Helen Thompson 12:00pm, May 3, 2017
For male albatrosses, bulking up impacts survival and reproduction.
Earth,, Climate

Crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf forks

By Thomas Sumner 4:39pm, May 2, 2017
An 180-kilometer-long rift in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf has forked into two branches, new satellite observations show.
Fungi,, Chemistry

How a mushroom gets its glow

By Susan Milius 9:00am, April 27, 2017
For the first time, biologists have pinpointed the compound that lights up in fungal bioluminescence.
Animals,, Genetics

Dog DNA study maps breeds across the world

By Helen Thompson 11:30am, April 26, 2017
Here are five findings from a massive study of dog breed genomes.
Science & Society

Watch the March for Science in Washington, D.C.

By Science News 6:00am, April 22, 2017
Watch the live stream of the March for Science in Washington, D.C. on April 22.
Planetary Science

In ‘grand finale,’ Cassini spacecraft sets off on collision course with Saturn

By Ashley Yeager 7:00am, April 21, 2017
The Cassini spacecraft will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere and disintegrate on Sept. 15, but is slated to do some solid science before its demise.
Oceans,, Pollution

The Arctic is a final garbage dump for ocean plastic

By Thomas Sumner 2:10pm, April 19, 2017
Ocean currents dump plastic garbage from the North Atlantic into previously pristine Arctic waters, new research shows.
Biomedicine,, Animals

Frog slime protein fights off the flu

By Helen Thompson 9:00am, April 19, 2017
Urumin, a protein found in Indian frog mucus secretions, has a knack for taking down H1 flu viruses, a new study finds.
Planetary Science

Bubbles may put mysterious fizz in Titan’s polar sea

By Ashley Yeager 11:00am, April 18, 2017
Nitrogen bubbles may be the source of the “magic island” on Saturn’s moon Titan.
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