European bison in Belarus, video

This video says about itself:

European bison (Bison bonasus). Aerial shots of a wild population from Belarus.

The European bison, also known as wisent, zubr, or the European wood bison – is a Eurasian species of bison. It is one of two extant species of bison, alongside the American bison.

White-winged crossbill at Ontario, Canada feeder

This 26 January 2020 video from Canada says about itself:

Surprise! White-winged Crossbill [aka two-barred crossbill] Makes Visit to the Ontario FeederWatch Cam | Cornell Lab

South African lion versus buffalo, video

This 24 January 2020 video from South Africa says about itself:

A male lion in Kruger national park stalks a buffalo and seems to be surprised by the size of the buffalo bull. The male lion then seems to freeze before the buffalo turns around and chases it off.

Bees like strawberry fields, new research

This video from Britain says about itself:

Customer testimonial from S&A, UK – Strawberry pollination. S&A have been using Natupol bees for more than 15 years and can no longer envisage producing a successful crop of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries without pollination of Koppert bumblebees. We all know that the number of naturally occurring bees is dropping and that it has become increasingly necessary to produce commercial bumblebees and other pollinators to meet the needs for food production worldwide. Research confirmed that bumblebees were more efficient pollinators than honeybees or any other previously used methods.

From the University of Göttingen in Germany:

Dance of the honey bee reveals fondness for strawberries

January 24, 2020

Bees are pollinators of many wild and crop plants, but in many places their diversity and density is declining. A research team from the Universities of Göttingen, Sussex and Würzburg has now investigated the foraging behaviour of bees in agricultural landscapes. To do this, the scientists analysed the bees’ dances, which are called the “waggle dance.” They found out that honey bees prefer strawberry fields, even if they flowered directly next to the oilseed rape fields. Only when oilseed rape was in full bloom were fewer honey bees observed in the strawberry field. Wild bees, on the other hand, consistently chose the strawberry field. The results have been published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.

A team from the Functional Agrobiodiversity and Agroecology groups at the University of Göttingen established small honey bee colonies next to eleven strawberry fields in the region of Göttingen and Kassel. The scientists then used video recordings and decoded the waggle dances. Honey bees dance to communicate the direction and distance of attractive food sources that they have visited. In combination with satellite maps of the landscape, the land use type that they preferred could be determined. The team also studied which plants the bees used as pollen resources and calculated the density of honey bees and wild bees in the study fields.

Their results: honey bees prefer the strawberry fields, even when oilseed rape is flowering abundantly in the area. However, honey bees from the surrounding landscapes are less common in the strawberry fields when oilseed rape is in full bloom. “In contrast, solitary wild bees, like mining bees, are constantly present in the strawberry field,” says first author Svenja Bänsch, post-doctoral researcher in the Functional Agrobiodiversity group at the University of Göttingen. “Wild bees are therefore of great importance for the pollination of crops,” emphasizes Professor Teja Tscharntke, Head of the Agroecology group.

“With this study, we were able to show that small honey bee colonies in particular can be suitable for the pollination of strawberries in the open field. However, our results also show that wild bees in the landscape should be supported by appropriate management measures”.

Arthropod animals evolution, new research

This July 2019 video is called Evolution of early Arthropods.

From the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics:

Unravelling arthropod genomic diversity over 500 million years of evolution

January 23, 2020

Summary: The evolutionary innovations of insects and other arthropods are as numerous as they are wondrous, from terrifying fangs and stingers to exquisitely colored wings and ingenious feats of engineering. DNA sequencing allows us to chart the genomic blueprints underlying this incredible diversity that characterizes the arthropods and makes them the most successful group of animals on Earth.

An international team of scientists report in the journal Genome Biology results from a pilot project, co-led by Robert Waterhouse, Group Leader at the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and University of Lausanne, to kick-start the global sequencing initiative of thousands of arthropods. Comparative analyses across 76 species spanning 500 million years of evolution reveal dynamic genomic changes that point to key factors behind their success and open up many new areas of research.

Friends and foes, arthropods rule the world

Arthropods make up the most species-rich and diverse group of animals on Earth, with numerous adaptations over 500 million years of evolution that have allowed them to exploit all major ecosystems. They play vital roles in the healthy ecology of our planet as well as being both beneficial and detrimental to the success of humankind through pollination and biowaste recycling, or destroying crops and spreading disease. “By sequencing and comparing their genomes we can begin to identify some of the key genetic factors behind their evolutionary success,” explains Waterhouse, “but will the impact of human activities in modern times bring an end to their rule, or will their ability to adapt and innovate ensure their survival?”

The i5k pilot project: kick-starting arthropod genome sequencing

The i5k initiative to sequence and annotate the genomes of 5000 species of insects and other arthropods, was launched in a letter to Science in 2011. From the outset, the initiative aimed to support the development of new genomic resources for understanding the molecular biology and evolution of arthropods. Since then, the i5k has grown into a broad community of scientists using genomics to study insects and other arthropods in many different contexts from fundamental animal biology, to effects on ecology and the environment, and impacts on human health and agriculture2. To kick-start the i5k, a pilot project was launched at the Baylor College of Medicine led by Stephen Richards to sequence, assemble, and annotate the genomes of 28 diverse arthropod species carefully selected from 787 community nominations.

Large-scale multi-species genome comparisons

“The identification and annotation of thousands of genes from the i5k pilot project substantially increases our current genomic sampling of arthropods,” says Waterhouse. Combining these with previously sequenced genomes enabled the researchers to perform a large-scale comparative analysis across 76 diverse species including flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, bees, ants, wasps, true bugs, thrips, lice, cockroaches, termites, mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies, bristletails, crustaceans, centipedes, spiders, ticks, mites, and scorpions. PhD students Gregg Thomas from Indiana University, USA, and Elias Dohmen from the University of Münster, Germany, used the annotated genomes to perform the computational evolutionary analyses of more than one million arthropod genes.

Dynamic gene family evolution — a key to success?

The team’s analyses focused on tracing gene evolutionary histories to estimate changes in gene content and gene structure over 500 million years. This enabled identification of families of genes that have substantially increased or decreased in size, or newly emerged or disappeared, or rearranged their protein domains, between and within each of the major arthropod subgroups. The gene families found to be most dynamically changing encode proteins involved in functions linked to digestion, chemical defence, and the building and remodelling of chitin — a major part of arthropod exoskeletons. Adaptability of digestive processes and mechanisms to neutralise harmful chemicals undoubtedly served arthropods well as they conquered a wide variety of ecological niches. Perhaps even more importantly, the flexibility that comes with a segmented body plan and a dynamically remodellable exoskeleton allowed them to thrive by physically adapting to new ecosystems.

Innovation through invention and repurposing

Newly evolved gene families also reflect functions known to be important in different arthropod groups, such as visual learning and behaviour, pheromone and odorant detection, neuronal activity, and wing development. These may enhance food location abilities or fine-tune species self-recognition and communication. In contrast, few changes were identified in the ancestor of insects that undergo complete metamorphosis: the dramatic change from the juvenile form to the fully developed adult (like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly). This has traditionally been thought of as a major step in the evolution of insects from the original state of developing through gradual nymph stages until finally reaching the adult stage. “These findings support the idea that this key transition is more likely to have occurred through the rewiring of existing gene networks or building new networks using existing genes, a scenario of new-tricks-for-old-genes” explains Waterhouse.

Genomic insights into arthropod biology and evolution

Several detailed genomic studies of individual i5k species have focused on their fascinating biological traits such as the feeding ecology and developmental biology of the milkweed bug, insecticide resistance, blood feeding, and traumatic sex of the bed bug, horizontal gene transfer from bacteria and fungi and digestion of plant materials by the Asian long-horned beetle, and parasite-host interactions and potential vaccines for the sheep blowfly. The combined analyses reveal dynamically changing and newly emerged gene families that will stimulate new areas of research. “We can take these hypotheses into the lab and use them to directly study how the genome is translated into visible morphology at a resolution that cannot be achieved with any other animal group,” says co-lead author, Ariel Chipman, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. The new resources substantially advance progress towards building a comprehensive genomic catalogue of life on our planet, and with more than a million described arthropod species and estimates of seven times as many, there clearly remains a great deal to discover!

Next steps in arthropod genomics and beyond

More effective and cost-efficient DNA sequencing technologies mean that new ambitious initiatives are already underway to sequence the genomes of additional arthropods. These include the Global Ant Genome Alliance and the Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance, as well as the Darwin Tree of Life Project that is targeting all known species of animals in the British Isles, and the global network of communities coordinated by the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP) that aims to sequence all of Earth’s eukaryotic biodiversity7. The EBP’s goals also include benefitting human welfare, where the roles of arthropods are clear and the hidden benefits are likely to be substantial, as well as protecting biodiversity and understanding ecosystems, where alarming reports of declining numbers make arthropods a priority. “The completion of the i5k pilot project therefore represents an important milestone in the progress towards intensifying efforts to develop a comprehensive genomic catalogue of life on our planet,” concludes Richards.

Shiny jewel beetles’ camouflage, new research

This Augustus 2019 video says about itself:

Jewel beetle, Metallic wood-boring beetle, Buprestid

Adult jewel beetles mainly feed on plant foliage or nectar, although some species feed on pollen and can be observed visiting flowers.

From ScienceDaily:

Jewel beetles’ sparkle helps them hide in plain sight

January 23, 2020

Bright colors are often considered an evolutionary tradeoff in the animal kingdom. Yes, a male peacock‘s colorful feathers may help it attract a mate, but they also make it more likely to be seen by a hungry jungle cat. Jewel beetles (Sternocera aequisignata) and their green, blue, and purple iridescent wing cases may be an exception to the rule, researchers report January 23 in the journal Current Biology. They found that the insects’ bright colors can act as a form of camouflage.

“The idea of ‘iridescence as camouflage’ is over 100 years old, but our study is the first to show that these early ignored or rejected ideas that ‘changeable or metallic colors are among the strongest factors in animals’ concealment’ have traction,” says first author Karin Kjernsmo, an evolutionary and behavioral ecologist at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. “Both birds and humans really do have difficulty spotting iridescent objects in a natural, complex, forest environment.”

Similar to an abalone shell or holographic trading card, iridescent objects change color depending on the angle from which they’re viewed, creating a flashy, rainbow-like effect. This effect has made jewel beetles a staple in insect jewelry due to their vibrant color.

The researchers placed iridescent and dull-colored (green, purple, blue, rainbow, and black) wing cases attached to mealworms onto various plants in a natural field setting and then observed how often birds attacked each group. This was followed by a human detection test, where respondents searched for the wing cases in the field.

Despite their gleam, Kjernsmo and her team found that the iridescent wing cases outpaced equally sized dull-colored wing cases at avoiding detection from birds and humans. Using both humans and birds is useful, Kjernsmo says, as with birds “you never know whether they can’t see a prey item or if they see it but choose to ignore it. With human participants, you know exactly where the effects lie.” Surprisingly, in both scenarios, the iridescent wing cases performed best (even beating leaf-colored green) at remaining undetected.

In addition, the ability to remain hidden became even more pronounced when the iridescent wing cases were placed against a glossy leaf background — adding “visual noise.” Kjernsmo says that the masking ability of iridescence may be the result of “dynamic disruptive camouflage,” which creates the illusion of inconsistent features and depth, confusing potential predators.

These results suggest that camouflage may be a primary function of iridescent structures in some species, reframing our current understanding behind its evolution and role in nature. “We don’t for a minute imagine that the effect is something unique to jewel beetles; indeed, we’d be disappointed if it was,” say Kjernsmo. “If we found that these beetles could be concealed by their colors, it increases the chances that many iridescent species could be using their colors this way.”

Next, Kjernsmo will use artificial intelligence to get a better understanding of the evolution of camouflage in the wild. She is working with senior author Innes Cuthill, a behavioral ecologist, and Nick Scott-Samuel, an experimental psychologist, both at the University of Bristol, using machine learning to evolve the optimal camouflage patterns for different environments and comparing those to real animal colors.

Don’t let windows kill birds

This 24 January 2020 video says about itself:

We witnessed wildlife vets trying to save a Peregrine Falcon that collided with a window. Sadly, almost a billion birds die in window collisions in the U.S. and Canada each year. #BringBirdsBack Break up the reflections on your windows at home and at work and you’ll be taking one of our Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds.

Learn more here.