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  • News

    War wrecked an African ecosystem. Ecologists are trying to restore it

    The national park at the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley was once considered a wildlife paradise. Hippopotamuses lolled in the lush waters of Mozambique’s Lake Urema, and thousands of antelope bounded across the park’s savannas and floodplains. Elephant herds and prides of lions drew international tourists.

    Then civil war erupted in the southeast African nation in 1977,...

    05/05/2019 - 08:00 Ecology, Conservation, Animals
  • News in Brief

    Hippo poop cycles silicon through the East African environment

    Hippos keep the nutrient silicon on the move through the East African environment.

    Each day, the giant grazers transport nearly half a metric ton of silicon, an important nutrient for both plants and animals, from land to water, scientists report online May 1 in Science Advances. The hippos forage for silicon-bearing grass on land and then excrete it into the waters where they lounge....

    05/01/2019 - 14:06 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    A global survey finds that the Arctic Ocean is a hot spot for viruses

    Arctic waters turn out to be teeming with some of the world’s smallest entities — viruses.

    Water samples taken during a three-year expedition around the world’s oceans identified around 200,000 virus species, roughly 12 times the number found in a previous smaller survey. And 42 percent of those viruses were found exclusively in the Arctic, researchers report April 25 in Cell.

    The...

    04/25/2019 - 11:00 Microbes, Oceans, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Tiny pumpkin toadlets have glowing bony plates on their backs

    When a group of biologists realized that pumpkin toadlets had no middle ear bone, the team was stumped. That meant that these tiny, toxic frogs couldn’t hear each other’s high-pitched chirps, which is how most frogs attract mates. 

    “We scratched our heads about how they could communicate by other means,” says Sandra Goutte, an evolutionary biologist at New York University Abu Dhabi in...

    04/03/2019 - 07:00 Animals, Ecology
  • Television

    ‘Epic Yellowstone’ captures the thriving ecosystem of the world-famous park

    “What you’re about to experience is Yellowstone as it’s rarely seen,” actor and Montana resident Bill Pullman says in the opening narration of a new documentary. Smithsonian Channel’s Epic Yellowstone, a four-part series that airs this month and will be available via several streaming services, puts Yellowstone National Park’s recovering ecosystem into the limelight. The park went nearly half...

    03/17/2019 - 07:00 Animals, Conservation, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Tiny bits of iron may explain why some icebergs are green

    Scientists may have finally figured out why some icebergs are green. Iron oxides could create the emerald hue.

    Icebergs often appear mostly white because light bounces off air bubbles trapped inside the ice. But pure ice — ice without air bubbles that often forms on a berg’s underside — appears blue because it absorbs longer light wavelengths (warm colors like red and orange) and...

    03/06/2019 - 11:00 Oceans, Chemistry, Ecology
  • News

    What spiders eating weird stuff tell us about complex Amazon food webs

    Rudolf von May has seen some pretty wild things in Peru’s Amazon rainforest. But this took things to a whole new level. There, caught on a team member’s cell phone video, was a giant tarantula, about the size of a dinner plate, weeble-wobbling through the leaf litter with the body of what was later identified as a mouse opossum hanging from its fangs.

    “It was very surprising, to some...

    02/28/2019 - 11:09 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Hermit crabs are drawn to the smell of their own dead

    The death of a millionaire with no heir draws an opportunistic crowd. So, too, does the demise of a land-dwelling hermit crab. Researchers working in Costa Rica found that the curious crabs are drawn to the smell of flesh torn from one of their own.

    Dartmouth College biologist Mark Laidre, along with undergraduate student Leah Valdes, set out 20 plastic tubes on a beach, each holding...

    02/25/2019 - 08:00 Animals, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Floating seabirds provide a novel way to trace ocean currents

    Seabirds are like feathered buoys. Gently rafting on the ocean’s surface, these birds go with the flow, making them excellent proxies for tracking changes in a current’s speed and direction.

    Oceanographers traditionally use radar, floating buoys or autonomous underwater vehicles to measure ocean current velocities, which can affect the climate, ecosystems and the movement of important...

    01/10/2019 - 09:00 Oceans, Ecology