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Extinct carnivorous marsupial may have hunted prey larger than itself

Main Point:

Skull reconstruction of marsupial suggests ability to hunt large prey, relative to its body mass.

Published in:

PLOS One

Study Further:

The reconstruction of an extinct meat-eating marsupial’s skull, Nimbacinus dicksoni, suggests that it may have had the ability to hunt vertebrate prey exceeding its own body size, according to results published April 9, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Marie Attard from the University of New England together with colleagues from the University of New South Wales.

Nimbacinus dicksoni is a member of an extinct family of Australian and New Guinean marsupial carnivores, Thylacinidae. Aside from one recently extinct species, the majority of information known about species in this family stems from recovered skull fragments, which limits species ecology and diversity analysis. Scientists recovered a ~16-11.6 million year old preserved skull of N. dicksoni from the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site in northwestern Queensland, Australia, and used it to determine if N. dicksoni was more likely to hunt small or large prey. They applied virtual 3D reconstruction techniques and computer modelling to reconstruct the skull of Nimbacinus, digitally ‘crash-testing’ and comparing it to models of large living marsupial carnivores (Tasmanian devil, spotted-tailed quoll and northern quoll), and to the recently extinct Tasmanian tiger, N. dicksoni’s close relative.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by saypeople - April 10, 2014 at 2:00 am

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Leafcutter Bee Fossils Reveal Ice Age Environment at La Brea Tar Pits

Main Point:

Bee fossils aid understanding of climate of Southern California during Late Pleistocene.

Published in:

PLOS One

Study Further:

Fossilized leafcutter bee nest cells reveal new insights into the local habitat and prevailing climate at the La Brea Tar Pits toward the end of the last Ice Age, according to a recent study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on April 9, 2014 by Anna R. Holden of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) and colleagues.

One of the world’s richest and most important Ice Age fossil localities, the La Brea Tar Pits are well known for their collection of saber-toothed cats and mammoths. The site also contains an equally vast insect collection. Scientists examined the physical features of the bees, the nest cell architecture, and used environmental niche modeling to best match the ancient Ice Age specimens to Megachile gentilis. The study used micro CT scans to reconstruct images of the nest cells and bees.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by saypeople - at 2:00 am

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“RoboClam” hits new depths as robotic digger

Main Point:

A digging robot inspired by the unique mechanisms employed by the Atlantic razor clam has been created by a group of researchers in the US.

Published in:

Bioinspiration & Biomimetics

Study Further:

The robot, dubbed RoboClam, is able to dig with extreme efficiency by transforming the surrounding soil from a solid into a liquid, and could have a variety of applications from anchoring underwater robots to subsea cable installation and mine neutralization.

The first results of its performance have been published today, 9 April, in IOP Publishing’s journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. A video of RoboClam in action can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bztw9PUiRss.

The Atlantic razor clam, Ensis directus, is a large species of mollusc found on the North American coast which has a remarkable ability to burrow quickly and deeply into wet sand, easily out-performing any human digger.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by saypeople - April 9, 2014 at 5:01 am

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Large carnivores with large geographic ranges better-studied

Main Point:

Carnivore size and range, but not conservation status matters to researchers.

Published in:

PLOS ONE

Study Further:

Scientists tend to study larger carnivores with larger geographic ranges than those with greater adaptability and broader diets, according to results published April 2, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Zoe Brooke and colleagues from Zoological Society of London.

Scientists need to evaluate research efforts and their effectiveness in order to meet the conservation needs of a wider range of species which may be threatened due to habitat loss, exploitation, and climate change. The characteristics of the species themselves may influence how much we study them, possibly creating a bias in our understanding of this diverse group of animals. In an effort to better identify patterns and causes in carnivore research, the authors combined bibliometric information they obtained from ~16,500 published papers on the Order Carnivora-a well-known group of 286 species-with information on the species’ life history and ecological traits.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by saypeople - April 3, 2014 at 2:00 am

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Skipping meals may affect butterfly wing size, coloration

Main Point:

Two days without food for larvae may contribute to pale coloration, smaller butterfly wings.

Published in:

PLOS ONE

Study Further:

High food stress may impact wing size and coloration—both indicators of migratory success—in monarch butterflies, according to results published April 2, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Haley Johnson from University of Jamestown and colleagues.

Monarch butterflies migrate long distances according to the seasons every year. Because this requires so much energy, they rely on access to food during early stages of growth so that they can develop the necessary characteristics to safely complete the trek, including appropriate wing shape and coloration. To better understand the effects of food on growth, the authors of this study deprived late-stage larvae of milkweed and later measured the effect on the adults’ wing size and coloration. The three test groups were those with no food restriction, those with 24-hour food restriction (low-stress), or those with 48-hour restriction (high stress). After metamorphosis, scientists imaged and analyzed the forewing length, width, and surface area, as well as the brightness of the orange wing pigment and the intensity of black pigment.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by saypeople - at 2:00 am

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