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Articles related to Ecology

Cover Story: Gene Drives: A Way to Genetically Engineer Populations
Gene drives occur when a bias in the mechanism of inheritance spreads particular genetic variants through a population. Developments in gene-editing technology now make it possible to construct gene drives that address problems in health, agriculture and conservation.
Browse: Gene Drives: Just 100 Infertile Mice Can Eradicate an Island Population
Browse: Tassie Devils Are Evolving Resistance to Facial Tumours
Credit: Andrés Castañeda
Feature: Habitat Highways Save Animals from Fire
Fire can act in a similar way to habitat fragmentation and restrict the movement of animals across the landscape.
Feature: Gene Drives for Conservation
Gene drives may provide a novel tool to counteract seemingly unstoppable threats to global biodiversity.
Browse: Sting in the Tail for Rare Species Conservation
Browse: Introduced Megafauna Are Rewilding Ecosystems
Feature: The Evolving Story of Heredity
Biologists are discovering that there is a lot more to heredity than genes. In the latest twist, it turns out that offspring size in an Australian fly species can be determined by the diet of its mother’s previous mating partner.
Browse: Genes Could Get the Jump on Cane Toads
Credit: Menna Jones
Feature: The Devil Is in the DNA
DNA analysis reveals that Tasmanian devils survived a major population decline thousands of years ago, leaving them with low genetic diversity to withstand devil facial tumour disease.
Browse: Penguins Retreat from Sea-Ice
For the first time, emperor penguins have been found nesting on ice shelves, sometimes 40 metres above the ocean rather than the much lower sea-ice they normally frequent.
Browse: Sneaky Males Switch on Their Female Brain
Credit: Roy Caldwell
Feature: In Living Colour
Colour perception is more advanced in goldfish than humans, yet researchers have tended to focus on vision in animals similar to us. Justin Marshall says this is “fundamentally stupid” and is setting his sights on a marine creature with 12 different colour receptors.
Browse: Hoodwinked by a Giant Sunfish
Browse: Black Leopards Reveal Their Spots Expert Opinion: Gene Editing for Conservation Needs In-Built Protection
Researchers have been considering using gene drives to rid New Zealand of invasive pests, but have they adequately estimated the issues and addressed indigenous rights?
Browse: Blind Beetles Show Signs of Sight Browse: Warning of Ecological Risks of Gene Drives
Feature: The Diversity of Dingo Diets
From crustaceans to camels, Australia’s top predator dines out on hundreds of vertebrate species, including threatened animals and pests.
Browse: Eels in Knots over Food
Browse: Scientists Produce a Hit Love Song for Toads
Feature: Rewilding Australia
Sometimes the best way to conserve biodiversity is to stand back and let wild animals do the hard work of ecological management.
Browse: Cuckoos Trick Other Cuckoos
Australian cuckoos are engaged in an arms race, competing with each other to take over the nests of other species.
Browse: Researchers Estimate Maximum Growth Rate for Life on Earth
Browse: Snails Lose their Spring
Sea snails exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide lose their capacity to avoid predators, with worrying implications for marine ecosystems.
Browse: Acid Trips Cone Snails
A healthy female Tasmanian devil.
Feature: When the Devil’s Away the Possums Will Play
Brushtail possums are boldly venturing away from the safety of trees to forage on the ground as an unprecedented transmissible cancer removes their major predator, the Tasmanian devil.
Browse: How Do Geese Cross the Himalayas?
Browse: Kangaroos Are Left-Handed Browse: Size Matters for Sexually Deceptive Orchids
Browse: Gillnets Threaten Penguins Browse: Even the Light Touch of a Green Thumb Slows Plant Growth
Credit: davemhuntphoto/Adobe
Feature: Reproductive Threats to Australia’s Marsupials
Chemicals used in agriculture, industry and household goods can have effects on marsupial fertility as profound as sex reversal.
Credit: TKphotography64
Feature: The Ancestor of All Flowers
An international collaborative project has reconstructed the ancestor of all modern flowering plants. What can it tell us about the evolution of this important group?
Feature: The Ecological Cost of Artificial Light
Public lighting must be reimagined so it’s both functional and safe, has less impact on ecological systems and allows visibility of the stars again.
Browse: Male Snakes Worn Down by Mating Frenzy
Credit: Piotr Wawrzyniuk/Adobe
Feature: The Fish That Should Have Got Away
Attempts to catch the biggest fish may have unwittingly caused the fishing industry to crash in many parts of the world. To make things more worrying, new research indicates that climate change will reduce the capacity of fish to reproduce.
Browse: Birds of a Smelly Feather Lay Together
Browse: Sawfish Revealed as the Ultimate Stealth Hunter
Feature: Is Australia Undergoing an Insect Armageddon?
Long-term studies all over the world show a dramatic decline in insect diversity and numbers, but we know little about the health of Australian insect populations.
Browse: Atmospheric Gases Enough to Support Life Browse: Migratory Birds Threatened
Feature: Why Do Whale Sharks Get So Big?
Whale sharks have evolved to become the world’s largest fish as a consequence of feeding on vast amounts of tiny prey in the cold ocean depths.
Browse: Humans Affected by Shifting Species
Browse: Dead coral spells trouble: fish ‘don’t smell danger’
Dead coral is affecting chemical alarm cues, which could be the death of fish too, a new study shows.
Browse: Legless on Land
In another blow to proponents of Intelligent Design, clues have been found to the evolution of one of the world’s oddest fish, the Pacific leaping blenny (Alticus arnoldorum).
Browse: Joeys Neglected When Mums Mingle Browse: Sharks More Abundant on Healthy Coral Reefs
Propithecus diadema, the diademed sifaka.  Credit: Mitchell Irwin
Cover Story: Escape to Madagascar
Madagascar’s bizarre assemblage of fauna didn’t evolve from the fossils found on the island, so how did they get there?
Cover Story: Alchemists of Catastrophe: How Disasters Deliver Data
Ecologists are treating oil spills, species invasions and other environmental calamities as natural experiments on a scale that could never be attained by normal laboratory or field studies.
Feature: A Reproductive Riddle
They look cute and even like to cuddle, but what do the small testes and spikey penis of the spinifex hopping mouse tell us about their ability to survive and thrive between periods of drought and flooding rain?
A great bowerbird at his bower.
Feature: Masters of Illusion
Male great bowerbirds construct visual illusions that enhance mating success by altering female perception of their displays.
When the pigeon pecks the image correctly a border is displayed and a short tone
Feature: Bird Brains? Pigeons Move Up the Pecking Order
Research into the intellectual abilities of pigeons reveals that the brains of birds, while very different to our own brains, are capable of much more than they’re given credit for.
Plants may be just as noisy as other organisms.
Feature: Green Symphonies
New research reveals plants emitting and responding to sounds.
Credit: Angus McNab
Feature: Conservation Needs More Bite
What role can devils and dingoes play in curbing Australia’s rate of species extinctions?
Credit: David Wachenfeld, Triggerfish Images
Feature: Demystifying a Sea Monster
The use of the sawfish’s saw has been widely speculated upon, but a recent study has finally revealed its dual purpose.
Feature: The Living World Below Us
Researchers are revealing the astonishing life in Australia’s underworld, leaving many intrigued about its role in the health of our groundwaters.
Credit: Rodrigo Hamede, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Feature: Devil Is in the DNA
Ancient DNA is helping shed light on why the Tasmanian devil is being driven to extinction.
DNA analysis of moa bones
Feature: DNA Points to Human Role in Moa Extinction
A new study of ancient DNA has revealed that New Zealand’s giant flightless moa were well-adapted to deal with the effects of climate and habitat change, leaving only overhunting and habitat destruction by humans as reasons for their extinction
A pygmy blue whale feeds on krill in waters off Australia. Credit: research team
Feature: Australian Blue Whales Now Call Antarctica Home
The first evidence of interbreeding between subspecies of blue whales suggest that their ecology is changing, possibly due to historic whaling or climate change.
Feature: Climate Extremes Matter Most for Biodiversity
The world is expected to warm by up to 4°C by 2070, but it is the extreme weather events associated with climate change that threaten biodiversity the most.
The giant wood spider
Feature: You Are What You Weave
A spider web’s architecture and the properties of its silk are a consequence of environmental conditions and the nutrients that the spider extracts from its prey.
Credit: Henry Cook
Feature: Wallabies Rock the Basis of Speciation
Six rock-wallaby species in Queensland have different numbers of chromosomes, yet gene flow somehow occurs between them. What does this tell us about how new species form?
Credit: Eric Isselée/adobe
Feature: Why Are Bigger Offspring Better?
Bigger offspring have greater energy needs, so why do they survive and reproduce more successfully than their smaller siblings?
Credit: Michael Johnson, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Feature: A Pri¢e for Wildlife
Can market-based incentives and private ownership of wildlife remedy shortfalls in government funding for conservation?
Echidnas move in the wild at an average speed of 1.3 km/h
Feature: Echidnas Have a Nose for Ecological Engineering
Activity loggers have revealed that echidnas turn over 200 cubic metres of soil each year, making them one of Australia’s most important remaining ecosystem engineers.
Feature: Are We Still Domesticating the Wolf?
Modern wolves are being drawn to human sources of food, with serious implications for their evolution and conservation, as well as for ecosystems and humans communities in general.
Feature: How Far Does Your Cat Roam?
It’s 10 pm. Do you know where your cat is? Would you believe it could roam up to 30 km in a week?
Credit: David Merritt
Feature: Southern Lights: The Unique Bioluminescent Chemistry of New Zealand’s Glowworms
Researchers have extracted the molecules that power the majestic glowworm displays in New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves.
Credit: Bernard Dupont
Feature: Know Your Enemy
An ingenious experiment has tested whether shared evolutionary history enables bilbies to detect threats from dingoes but not feral cats.
Credit: Philip Roetman
Feature: The Koala Conundrum
Wildlife managers believe that overabundant koala populations need to be culled before they strip the manna gums in which they live and begin to starve, but will the public accept culling koalas and other wildlife species, such as kangaroos and brumbies?
The beach daisy growing on the east coast of Australia.
Feature: Daisy Chains Unshackle Evolution’s Speed Limit
The rapid evolution of an introduced beach daisy reveals how much we underestimate the ability of plants to adapt to climate change.
Common wombats mark their home range with their faeces.
Feature: Why Do Wombats Poo Cubes?
Wombat faeces stand apart from others you might encounter in the bush. How do they create cubic faeces, and why?
Browse: Cane Toads Are Their Own Worst Enemy
An alarm pheromone released by cane toads could be the key to their control.
Browse: Locust Mating a Risky Business
A wasp targeted copulating locust during the most recent plague.
Browse: Dingos May Have Outfoxed Tigers
New evidence suggests that thylacines were driven to extinction on the mainland by dingo attacks rather than competition for food, as previously thought.
Browse: Toads Caned by Own Poison
Cane toad poison can be trap the toad’s tadpoles so effectively that it may be possible to preserve high value conservation areas from this amphibious menace.
Browse: Neighbours Keep Crabs Honest
Urban crabs are more honest than their country cousins, new evidence suggests.
Browse: The Cost of Saving Species from Extinction
An international team has estimated the cost of shifting every endangered species to a lower status, and come up with two figures.
Browse: Bounty Was Sole Cause of Thylacine Extinction
Human factors alone were enough to wipe out the Tasmanian tiger, modelling suggests.
Browse: Devilish Epigenetics Drive Tumour
Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease occurs when epigenetic factors turn off surface molecules that the immune system uses to recognise foreign tissue
Browse: Hot Frogs Beat Chytrid
Frogs with a body temperature above 25°C for extended periods of time are able to fend off the chytrid fungus in the wild, according to an Australian Museum study.
Browse: Pythons Trick Doctors
The saliva from pythons, and possibly other non-venomous snakes, can trigger cross-reactions in venom detection kits, leading to the wasteful use of antivenoms.
Browse: Deserts Are Turning Green
Arguments that the world will benefit from increased plant growth arising from increased atmospheric carbon confirmed by an 11% increase in foliage cover from 1982–2010 in arid regions of Australia, North America and Africa.
Browse: Pesticides Are Destroying Aquatic Ecosystems
Pesticide run-off from agriculture has been blamed for a crisis in aquatic ecosystems despite laboratory studies supporting current regulatory levels.
Browse: Sugar Gliders Identified as Parrot Predators
Browse: Reef Survived Last Ice Age Browse: Along Came a Spider and Sat Down to Fish
Browse: Goannas Taught the Terrible Taste of Toads Browse: Tree-Hugging Keeps Koalas Cool
Browse: Corals Eat Plastic Browse: Turtle Nests at Risk from Rising Seas
Browse: Devil Facial Tumour Evolves to a More Deadly Form Browse: Trap-jaw Spiders Strike like Lightning
Browse: Scientists Make Ants Angry Browse: Bee Semen Can Save the Queen from Dysentery
Browse: Marine study shows how climate change accelerates ecosystem collapse Browse: Clownfish males become fierce females if their ‘wife’ is eaten
Browse: Cats Kill More Than One Million Australian Birds Per Day Browse: Hot Crocs Can’t Hide Long
Browse: UV in Lizard’s Blue Tongue Evolved to Scare Predators Browse: Monkeys Snub Protein to Keep Warm in Winter
Browse: Fish Migration Can Push the Boundary Layer Browse: Sibling Rivalries Lead to Friendly Finches
conSCIENCE: A Fishery Called Murray
Improved water flows have reopened the Murray River’s flow to the sea, but much more needs to be done to restore the fisheries in Australia’s largest estuary.
conSCIENCE: Bee Teams in the Food Bowl
Apiarists and conservationists are at loggerheads, with implications for food security and the fate of indigenous species.
conSCIENCE: A Burning Solution
A revival of indigenous fire management in the Gulf country is restoring environmental integrity and reducing carbon emissions.
conSCIENCE: The Unintended Consequences of Reducing Food Waste
With the global human population continuing to outpace agricultural production, we may need to reduce the amount of food that we waste. But what will be the unintended consequences for wildlife that depend on food waste?
Cool Careers: How to Breed Echidnas
Andrea Wallage is discovering what makes an echidna frisky in preparation for efforts to save the endangered long-beaked species.
Eco Logic: Opinions Under Fire
An analysis of Victoria’s Black Saturday fires has provided important evidence about which factors save houses. The study highlights the difference between opinion and evidence.
Eco Logic: An Elephant out of the Box
Is the suggestion of introducing elephants to control gamba grass in Australia such a ridiculous idea?
Eco Logic: A Corridor to Where?
Connectivity conservation has been framed as a positive contribution that individuals can make in the face of the dual crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change. What is it and why should we pay attention?
Eco Logic: What Next for the Stock Route Network?
Eastern Australia could lose one of its greatest environmental and heritage assets, and many of us are not even aware of it.
Eco Logic: There’s Value in our Island Arks
Investing in conservation management on Australian islands yields a great return.
Eco Logic: Bioperversity in the Plantation
A narrow focus on carbon in commercial plantations could yield a number of unwelcome surprises.
Eco Logic: The Reality of Biodiversity Offsets
Many of the expectations for biodiversity offsetting remain unsupported by evidence.
Eco Logic: The Value of an Old Tree in the City
Large old trees provide a significant biodiversity benefit that should be factored in by governments when managing biodiversity.
Eco Logic: Cooperation and Conflict in Conservation
Different groups are all “fighting” for the environment, but each group does it in its own way and with its own specific priorities – sometimes leading to negative conservation outcomes.
Eco Logic: Fall of the Leviathans
Three of the world’s top forestry ecologists have warned that the planet’s stock of large, old trees is experiencing an accelerating decline.
Eco Logic: The Value of More Information for Managing Koalas
Thinking like a multi-billion dollar mining magnate may help us better manage koalas.
Eco Logic: Tall or Sprawl?
How should we grow Australia’s cities to minimise their biodiversity impacts?
Eco Logic: Five Objections to Decision Science in Conservation
What are the main objections to decision science, and why they are wrong?
Eco Logic: Conservation in a Wicked World
Conventional approaches to conservation can learn from complex military decisions in Afghanistan.
Eco Logic: Burning Questions for Black Cockatoos
Fire management around Perth may hold the key to the future of an endangered cockatoo.
Eco Logic: To Thin or Not to Thin
Stands of dense woody regrowth are increasing in extent across Australia and around the world. The effect of dense stands and thinning on tree growth is well understood but the impacts on the understorey are not.
Eco Logic: What’s in a Name?
Inconsistent classification of species introduces systematic bias to ecological studies.
Eco Logic: The Feasibility of a Cane Toad Barrier
Preventing the spread of cane toads into Western Australia’s Pilbara could cost less than $100,000 per year.
Eco Logic: Can Economics Enhance Ecological Restoration?
Economics has a lot to offer ecological restoration. A greater engagement with economics would enhance the likelihood of success for many restoration efforts.
Eco Logic: Orangutans (and Science) Are in Trouble
Robust science is telling us orangutan populations are in serious decline but the Indonesian government is disputing the finding.
Eco Logic: Human Burials Can Save Threatened Species
As declines in biodiversity accelerate we need to examine innovative ways to save threatened species. Conservation burials may be one solution, and the potential is enormous.
Credit: Thomas Vignaud
Eco Logic: The Third Dimension of Conservation
Oceans are inherently three-dimensional spaces, so effective and efficient conservation planning in oceans should take this third dimension – depth – into account.
Eco Logic: Crowdfunding Biodiversity Conservation
Crowdfunding is a new addition to the portfolio of conservation finance mechanisms with real potential to create valuable additional resources.
Eco Logic: Planning for Sea-Level Rise Using Portfolio Theory
Economics has many ways of dealing with uncertainty. Conservation scientists are incorporating one such approach to designing networks of marine reserves that will perform better as sea level rises.
Eureka!: Costly Copulation
Wasps and bats upsize their meals when they catch prey that are in the act of mating.
Eureka!: Catfish among the Pigeons
It might be time to add to the selection of bait and lures used to catch freshwater fish now that scientists have observed catfish hunting pigeons and tigerfish catching swallows.
Lowe Tech: If a Taxonomist Falls in the Forest...
Taxonomists are so under-resourced it would take them 400 years to describe all of Australia’s species, which means that species are going extinct before we even know about them.
Lowe Tech: From Little Things Big Things Grow
About 100 million hectares of forest have been lost globally in the past 25 years, but one Landcare group has increased a patch of rainforest lost to farmland by 40% in 20 years.
Online Feature: How the cheetah got its stripes
Feral cat study identifies a biological mechanism responsible for both the elegant stripes on the tabby cat and the cheetah's normally dappled coat.
Online Feature: Head banging to bird song
Can different bird species understand what each other are saying?
Online Feature: Tiny reef speedster challenges tuna in the ocean sprint
Tiny coral reef wrasses can swim as fast as some of the swiftest fish in the ocean – but using only half as much energy to do so.
Online Feature: Cryptic Clues: Spot the Difference with DNA
Scientists at the South Australian Museum are using molecular techniques to unlock one of nature's secrets – cryptic species.
Online Feature: Colour-changing dragons to reveal their secrets
A study of why animals change colour could enable scientists to develop bandages that change colour in response to slight changes in the temperature of the wound.
Online Feature: Celebrity pandas and tigers hog the extinction limelight
Worldwide, around 20,000 endangered animal species are competing for scarce conservation funds – but just 80 ‘celebrity species’ are hogging most of the attention.
Online Feature: Catch of the day in Borneo uncovers new species
Scientists have travelled to Borneo to study parasites infecting sharks and stingrays. The study has led to the discovery of many new species, and the data has been used to help Australian aquaria control the spread of parasite infections in the sharks and stingrays they have on display.
Online Feature: Dolphins keep lifelong social memories
Dolphins can recognise their old tank mates’ whistles after being separated for more than 20 years — the longest social memory ever recorded for a non-human species.
Online Feature: The bark side: domestic dogs threaten endangered species worldwide
Online Feature: Found: 'lost' forests covering an area two-thirds the size of Australia Browse: Genetic Bottlenecks as Gloomy Octopus Drifts South
Browse: Whale's Wails Are Out of Tune Browse: Tassie Devil Decline Allows Feral Cats to Flourish
Browse: Shark Bite-Off Rates Revealed at Ningaloo Reef